Saanich to explore safe consumption sites in fight against opioid crisis


SAANICH -- The District of Saanich is exploring a number of options to combat the ongoing opioid crisis.

The motion submitted by councilors Ned Taylor and Karen Harper on Monday will explore a number of options, including adding new supervised safe consumption sites, and calling on the federal government for immediate action.

More than 1,500 British Columbians died last year due to illicit drug overdoses -- and Councilor Ned Taylor says a better approach is needed. He says that looking at ideas such as providing safe consumption sites are a necessary path forward.

"The evidence is clear," said Taylor. "Supervised consumption sites are an effective way to reduce overdoses and other harms associated with drug use."

A recent report from Alberta Health found that supervised injection sites do reduce overdose deaths, as well as improve access to medical and social supports. This is supported by B.C. data, as there were no overdose deaths recorded at any safe consumption sites across the province in 2020.

The motion also expresses support for the City of Vancouver's efforts to decriminalize simple drug possession, as Councilor Taylor says he would like to see a similar move by the District of Saanich.

"The war on drugs has been going on for decades and the problem has gotten worse," said Taylor. "We need new approaches for the overdose crisis, and decriminalization of simple drug possession is a start."

Meanwhile the motion also requests that the Government of Canada immediately seek input from the people most affected by the crisis, and meet with the provinces and territories to develop a comprehensive pan-Canadian overdose action plan. This comes after former B.C. Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall declared a public health emergency in 2016.

The Island Health region has recorded 70 fentanyl-detected deaths in the first five months of 2020, nearly half of the 145 fentanyl-detected deaths recorded in all of last year. Approximately 83% of illicit drug toxicity deaths in B.C. in 2020 were due to fentanyl.


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