Interior Health: Mid-April target for mobile overdose unit

Interior Health has confirmed a mobile overdose prevention unit is about a month away from opening in Kelowna.

The mobile unit will replace the one that's been operating inside the old IH building on Ellis Street.

Health Service Administrator John Yarshenko says they've got a couple things to do first.

"Realistically, we're in the middle of hiring right now, so we anticipate having the vehicle operationally on the road by the middle of April," he said.

"It is a soft target, because we do have some hiring to do, as well as get the van actually delivered in ready shape."

He says the new vehicle won't operate as a safe injection site to start, because it's still waiting for federal approval.

"There's been ongoing conversations with Health Canada, we haven't actually submitted our final application at this point, we're still waiting for a few letters to go in with the submission," he said.

"We anticipate being able to get our submission in hopefully as soon as next week, and then it's kind of undetermined how long it'll be before we receive that response."

The main difference is that with an overdose prevention site, staff are reactive, and have naloxone on hand to treat people.

In a safe injection site, staff can be more proactive, and provide resources, education, and supervision to users.

As far as the schedule for where it'll be parked, Yarshenko says the end goal is to keep it consistently within a couple of "hot spots"

"Right now, we're doing some community engagement, picking up some advice on how to best manage that. We have two areas that we want to make sure that we're able to support - one is the downtown core, and the second is an area in Rutland," he said.

"Right now, we're anticipating having the mobile site available in those two locations for fixed periods of time each day."

The four new employees will be part-time, with the two nurses and two councillors each splitting time working in the unit.