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Calling card: services need to set up in rural areas for rural societal problems, says Nelson’s mayor

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
August 11th, 2023

The region’s health authority needs to come up with a plan for the issues taking place on Kootenay Boundary streets, and it needs to be rooted in the rural areas it serves, says the mayor in Nelson.

Janice Morrison called on the Interior Health Authority to develop a plan — a social contract — that contains balance and clarity, but also one that includes recovery.

“And it needs to include recovery that is delivered in a rural setting, not Vancouver, not a rehab facility on Vancouver Island,” she said earlier this week during the City of Nelson council meeting on Aug. 8. “It has to have recovery that is here for our people, our friends, our relatives. And even more importantly, after recovery it also has to deliver re-integration.”

There is no one-stop solution to the societal issues faced by every community in the Kootenay Boundary — and across B.C. and Canada — but it has to have a many-pronged approach, said Morrison, who spent 35 years in the healthcare field.

“You only have to read the literature to understand the importance of addicts not only going through recovery, but to help them re-integrate. These people, in many cases, will have had traumatic brain injuries. These will be people who would be similar to someone who has had a stroke, or a significant head injury from a car accident,” she said. “These people will need help for the rest of their lives.”

On Aug. 8 representatives from Interior Health met with city officials to discuss the street issues the city faced, as well as possible solutions. City manager Kevin Cormack said the City was left with more questions than answers in the wake of the meeting.

The services aren’t there for supporting people on the street and there is no plan for the region, for more overdose prevention sites or recovery services.

“And they are scrambling. They are not there yet … and that is the missing link,” he said. “This is a Health response. Local governments cannot be the lead in this Health response. We can certainly be partners and support that but we need Health to do the health part of this.”


Speaking of speaking

Language is important when the discussion around controlled substances takes place, said Morrison.

The use of the term supervised consumption site is a federally-mandated program which does not exist in B.C.

“We should not use the term consumption site because we don’t have them here,” she said. “And no (overdose prevention) site is giving away free drugs. If people are using drugs on a site, they are using drugs from the street.”

There is no program where people can go into an overdose prevention site (OPS) and get clean drugs, Morrison explained.

In Nelson there are two OPS sites: one at the HUB on Vernon Street and one at ANKORS. They are currently for injection use only. There are no inhalation OPS sites in Nelson or across the Kootenay Boundary.

In early May public backlash from concerned citizens in Nelson put the brakes on a supervised inhalation site slated for the Friendship Outreach Clubhouse.

Located on the 800 block of Vernon Street in Nelson, people living in the area voiced their opinion against the operation of the Interior Health Authority site — with the site opening delayed to a timeline of “a few weeks.”

Citing no consultation with those living in the neighbourhood, several people had pressed the IHA over the decision to open the supervised inhalation site.

Lannon de Best, executive director of clinical operations for the Kootenay Boundary at Interior Health, said they were committed to taking a few more steps before opening the inhalation site.

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.

Categories: General


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