An awareness march over the impending closure of the Overdose Prevention Service (OPS) at the Courtenay office of AIDS Vancouver Island is being held Tuesday, March 10 at 2 p.m. Marchers will gather at the Connect Warming Centre at 685 Cliffe Ave. and walk to Island Health offices at 355 11th St. in Courtenay.
Participants are invited to make signs regarding the March 31 closure. Members of the community will speak about their experiences of having their lives saved by OPS.
“Funding has been pulled from Island Health with no clear statement from the Health Authority that a supervised injection site will open elsewhere,” a news release states. “This puts lives at risk and affects all members of our community.”
The OPS will no longer be available in Courtenay because AVI lost its contract. Island Health has said it continues to “define options for the provision of those services” after March 31.
Organizers of Tuesday’s march say the location of the supervised site at 6th Street is optimally located, and that staff at AVI have developed a strong relationship with those who use their services.
“Not only does an OPS site save lives in the event of an overdose, it also is a key part to a referral pathway. The OPS site acts as a space where people can get referrals to other substance use support such as treatment and detox, intensive care management services, and treatment for HIV or Hep C services.”
Along with saving lives, advocates say OPS reduces public drug use and reduces the number of improperly discarded needles.
“Island Health needs to provide a clear answer as to where and when a supervised safe injection site will open,” the news release states.