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B.C. overdose prevention sites should be template for others: report

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  • VANCOUVER — It was a day Heather Hobbs recalls vividly: the staff at AIDS Vancouver Island had pulled another overdose victim from the washroom, his body was blue from a lack of oxygen.

    The man was revived and they closed the office in Victoria to allow staff to regroup. At the same time, in an alley just a half a block away, another of their clients was dying from an overdose.

    Hobbs said she remembers seeing the man leave the facility as they began cleaning up from the overdose. His death was the tipping point for the implementation of an overdose prevention site at their facility, even though they weren’t yet legal, she said.

    “I feel like it’s possible, had we not had to have closed, that he would still be alive. So it’s those moments that stick with me and really drive it home that these spaces are essential in terms of keeping people alive,” said Hobbs, who is the manager of harm reduction services for AIDS Vancouver Island.

    In April 2016, the B.C. government declared a public health emergency in the overdose crisis, allowing for the unprecedented implementation of the prevention facilities. Within weeks, 20 sites had mushroomed around the province.

    A new study by researchers at the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research concludes the rapid implementation of the sites should be used as a template for other governments to save lives.

    The study says the quick response of the provincial government and community groups is an “international example of an alternative to the lengthy and cumbersome sanctioning processes for (supervised consumption sites.)”

    The report, published this month in the International Journal of Drug Policy, says other government demands for public consultations and an intensive application process “are highly questionable in the context of legal drug poisonings and evidence-based alternatives such as (overdose prevention sites.)”

    Health Canada approves the supervised consumption sites, which require an exemption from federal drug laws, while the overdose prevention sites in B.C. are sanctioned under the provincial health minister’s declaration of a public health emergency.

    Bruce Wallace, co-author of the report, a scientist at the institute and an associate professor at the University of Victoria, said the study demonstrates how unnecessary the approval process is elsewhere.

    “Our research is showing that the benefits of being able to have overdose prevention sites at so many different locations and really integrated with housing, health and social support is a model to go for, rather than going back to the federal processes, which are more onerous to set up and more limited in scope.”

    The BC Coroners Service said 991 people died of illicit drug overdoses in 2016, 1,486 died the next year and 1,510 were killed by illicit drugs in 2018. The dramatic rise in deaths coincides with emergence of the powerful opioid fentanyl, which the coroner says is responsible for the majority of illicit drug deaths.

    Canada’s Public Health Agency said last week that 3,286 people died of apparent opioid-related deaths between January and September last year.

    The report draws on interviews from staff at three of the prevention sites in Victoria to determine their impact.

    Wallace said he’s frustrated that other jurisdictions in Canada aren’t adopting the same innovate practices to save lives, especially because they’ve been warned that dangerous opioids are moving into their provinces. 

    “So to have that level of warning of the potential harm and not act, it’s really tragic that people would not take these lessons and adopt them as fast as they can in other jurisdictions.”

    The Ontario government announced in late March that while 15 overdose prevention sites had been approved, six others would close, including three in Toronto.

    Judy Darcy, B.C.’s mental health and addictions minister, said there are about 40 overdose prevention sites across B.C. with over one million visits. Thousands of overdoses have been reversed and there have been no deaths at the sites, she added. 

    Darcy said it’s estimated the government’s actions, including the prevention sites, take-home naloxone kits and other prevention measures, have saved about 4,700 lives.

    She said the prevention sites are a critical tool that also connect visitors to other supports, such as housing or treatment. But the stigma remains, Darcy said, and that is the next barrier to knock down.

    “For too long we have treated mental health, mental illness as a sign of weakness and addiction as a character failure and as a sign of moral failure,” she said. “These centres don’t judge people. They’re there to save lives, they’re there to connect people to the social supports they need.”

    Terri Theodore, The Canadian Press


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    Celebrity Dance Off

    Travolta and Newton-John wrap up the Celebrity Dance Off

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  • Trevor Sopracolle went from watching the Celebrity Dance Off last year, to being front and centre this year!  Trevor was the first “Oil Man” in the Celebrity Dance Off.  Hopefully the first of many.  He’s also one of the toughest looking Travolta’s you’ll ever see.  Trevor and his pro partner Alex McPherson wrapped up the show with a brilliant choice of music from Grease.  “Olivia” was amazing.. and “John” turned the world upside down.  See for yourself. .. 

    My Story…

    I was born in Goodsoil, Saskatchewan and moved to Alberta when I was in grade 3 and spent most of my youth in Consort.

    I lost my Dad to cancer when I was in high school and so I grew up fast. At 17 I secured a loan for a 2-bedroom house with a dirt floor basement. To make ends meet, I worked as a tire technician at the local tire shop while attending high school. One of the only benefits of owning your own place in high school is having the coolest parties after the high school dances!

    I moved to Red Deer in 1999 at the age of 19 and began working at Fountain Tire. Not long later a local snubbing company hired me. Over a 10-year period I worked my way up becoming a senior supervisor overseeing most of the higher-class pressure jobs and many overseas projects. In 2008, Garrett Radchenko and I started Goliath Snubbing Ltd., and we haven’t looked back.

    I have also been blessed with the best kids a Dad could ask for. Being a single Dad with three kids under 8 definitely keeps me busy.


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    Celebrity Dance Off

    This dentist has a sweet tooth for the dance floor!

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  • Good chance most people don’t think of dentists and fun at the same time.  Well then most people haven’t met Dr Isaac Day yet.  The Innisfail dentist and father of 6 certainly knows how to have a good time.  Day and pro dancer Jinelle Themig nearly brought the roof down at the Cambridge Conference Centre.. especially when they shocked the crowd with one of the riskiest tricks we’ve ever seen at this competition.  Bet you can’t watch this just once.  It’s too much fun!

    My Story…

    A competitive fundraiser for a great cause? I’m all in!
    I am the founder of Day Dental and we have the best dental team and patients ever. With their support, we will keep the Mirror Ball trophy where it belongs…in Innisfail!
    While Innisfail has been home for my family and me for the last 7 years, I was born and raised in Edmonton where I completed my Bachelor of Medical Science and my Doctor of Dental Surgery. After working in Edmonton, my wife and I packed up our kids and moved to Central Alberta.
    I enjoy different experiences, personally and professionally, from working in a cosmetically driven dental practice in Edmonton to being the dentist at the Bowden Prison. When a new experience presents itself, the answer is YES. So when the opportunity to participate in the Sheraton Celebrity Dance Off presented itself, I knew I couldn’t turn it down.
    I am looking forward to helping this great cause, and to trying something new and exciting, and most definitely out of my comfort zone!


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