A proposed overdose prevention site (OPS) drew a lot of questions from Langley City Council, with some councillors worried about the possible unintended side effects of setting up such a facility, while others said it was important to do it right, so people will actually use the provided safe space.
A Fraser Health Authority delegation appeared at council’s Monday, Feb. 22 meeting by videoconference to explain the proposed facility would serve both the City and Township, offering “witnessed consumption,” where people can take their drugs with someone present.
Coun. Rudy Storteboom said he felt “threatened” by the proposal and the potential impact on the City core if it is located there.
“I don’t think I’m alone in feeling especially anxious,” Storteboom remarked.
“Why isn’t this in a hospital?” Storteboom asked, saying he would prefer some kind of in-home service.
Dan Kipper, director of clinical programs for Fraser Health, promised there would be consultation before a location is picked.
“We want to work quite closely with the community,” Kipper said.
Erin Gibson, manager of harm reduction for Fraser Health, said there are many “unwitnessed injection sites” and the OPS offers a safer alternative.
Coun. Gayle Martin commented that the proposal sounded like a safe injection site to her, and she couldn’t see people leaving their home to use it.
“We do not want it in our downtown core,” Martin warned.
Councillor Paul Albrecht was curious about the FHA decision to have one site serving both City and Township.
“Why not one in both?” Albrecht proposed.
Albrecht asked if the authority could “get the brakes pumped” and delay the project.
‘There are a little too many unknowns,” Albrecht remarked.
Coun. Nathan Pachal, who said he had his father’s permission, described his dad’s struggle with substance abuse, and how his parent once overdosed during a camping trip.
“I don’t think he chose to use the way he did,” Pachal observed.
“You don’t make a conscious decision to hurt your family.”
It is important that clients of the OPS don’t feel stigmatized, Pachal told the delegation.
“How will you create a space that feels safe for people like my dad?” Pachal asked
“It’s key that we get that right.”
In his online blog, Pachal later commented that he knows firsthand “that there is a lot of shame around drug addiction.”
Dr. Fernando Mejia, a medical health officer with FHA, described the site as “opening the door” to people who would not be treated otherwise.
“What we are proposing here, is one tool, among the many that need to be implemented,” Mejia told council.
Coun. Rosemary Wallace described the site as ‘necessary.”
“I see this as saving lives,” Wallace said.
“I see this as mending families.”
Coun. Teri James said choosing the right location was essential, and it should not be too central.
“I’m not going to suggest it be tucked away in a corner like a dirty little secret,” Jame added.
Mayor Val van den Broek called the site “just one part of the puzzle” that needs to be solved to affect the current overdose epidemic.
More people died of toxic drugs and overdoses in Langley in 2020 than in any previous year, according to a report by the B.C. Coroner’s Service released on Thursday Feb 11.
There were 39 illicit drug toxicity deaths last year, up from 22 in 2019.
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