IH officially applies for mobile supervised consumption unit

Two months after announcing its intention to do so, Interior Health has formally applied for a mobile supervised injection unit, or mobile supervised consumption unit, for Kelowna and Kamloops.

The application to Health Canada was submitted last Friday, and although previous decisions have taken over a year, a new federal bill in response to increased overdose deaths is expected to cut that time down to a couple of months.

“The shortest period of time that we’ve seen for an approval is just over 12 months,” says Interior Health, Medical Health Officer Dr. Trevor Corneil “so we are certainly hoping in B.C. to see some approvals happening in 2 or 3 months instead”

Safe injection sites are one of the ways the province has addressed a growing number of fatal opioid overdoses, since declaring a public health emergency last year.  

922 people died from an illicit drug overdose in the province last year, 47 of those were in Kelowna.

Corneil says while they wait for a response from Health Canada, the health authority will transition its current overdose prevention site, located at the old health building on Ellis Street, into a mobile unit.

“We’ll be offering a similar suite of services, access to harm reduction, access to education, intervention where required,” he says “however, until there’s an exemption, we will not be supervising injections themselves”

Corneil says the overdose prevention site at Ellis St. has been successful since doors opened 4 months ago, with several overdoses reversed. A site at Rutland was also supposed to open, however opposition from neighbouring tenants prevented it from opening.

The mobile unit is expected to be up and running in 2 to 3 weeks and will service areas that need it most, namely downtown and Rutland.

If Health Canada approves the safe consumption site application, the mobile unit will then add supervised consumption services as well.