Plea for public process: Neighbourhood group looks to garner say on downtown safe inhalation site
A neighbourhood group that raised concern over the establishment of a safe inhalation site in downtown Nelson is not opposed to the site, but rather is seeking proper process to discuss it, a recently-released organizational brochure claimed.
Called the Neighbourhood Network, the grassroots organization — made up of “affected” residents, families, business owners, community recreation organizations and seniors — have been informally meeting for a few months in order to discuss societal impacts on the eastern end of the city’s downtown.
In early May 2023, the organization was formed into the Neighbourhood Network (NN) and it was put into action on Tuesday, May 9 when neighbours were informed that a safe inhalation site was to open on Friday, May 12 at The Clubhouse (800 block of Vernon Street).
“We are not opposed to safe consumption sites,” noted a Neighbourhood Network brochure that was emailed out late on Sunday, May 21. “We are concerned with (Interior Health)’s management of the property and the spillover effects to the neighbourhood and the community … There was no neighbourhood or community consultation.”
Health Canada requires neighbour and community consultation for any safe consumption site — Section 56.1 exemption for medical purposes under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for activities at a supervised consumption site — the NN contended.
Consultation may include an open house, online survey, websites with information, informational meetings, flyers and door-to-door canvassing.
“Health Canada further states that: In the case where concerns were raised during the community consultation, a description of measures to address these concerns is required,” the NN brochure stated. “None of (this) has occurred.”
Lannon de Best, executive director of clinical operations for the Kootenay Boundary at Interior Health, said on May 12 that IHA would be taking a few more steps before opening the inhalation site.
As for what sort of public process would be created and when, de Best did not reveal.
ANKORS Nelson and Nelson Cares currently operated two overdose prevention sites in the 100 block of Baker Street and 500 block of Vernon Street, respectively. However, both are drug injection sites and not for inhalation.
As the drug crisis persists in other cities, Nelson’s continues to see a high number of deaths — a B.C. Coroner’s report revealed 11 people died in Nelson in 2022 due to toxic drug overdose.
More than seven years after the declaration of a public-health emergency, the toxic, unregulated drug supply continues to claim the lives of British Columbians in record numbers, according to preliminary reporting released by the B.C. Coroners Service.
Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, said on the anniversary of the longest public-health emergency in B.C.’s history that more than 11,000 people have lost their lives due to the unregulated drug supply.
At least 374 deaths believed to be caused by toxic drugs were reported to the B.C. Coroners Service in February (177) and March (197), which equates to an average of 6.4 lives lost per day.
The 596 lives lost between January and March is the second-highest total ever recorded in the first three months of a calendar year, behind only 2022 (599 lives lost). The total number of deaths equates to a province-wide death rate of 44.1 deaths per 100,000 population.