Northern Health continues to look for permanant OPS location

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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Northern Health says they’re again looking for a permanent location for their overdose prevention services after their temporary use permit was pulled.

Chief operating officer for the health authority, Angela De Smit, says the location’s property owner pulled the permit.

“They had decided that they no longer wanted to lease the space to Northern Health for that purpose,” De Smit stated.

The City of Fort St. John’s release said Tuesday that the permit was cancelled by the landlord on behalf of Northern Health. However, the health authority says it was the decision of the landlord.

De Smit says the health authority is now on the lookout for another space to lease to provide critical overdose prevention services to residents.

“We are starting to once again look out because our intention is that we will continue to look for another site where we can establish a permanent overdose prevention service,” De Smit said.

However, once the health authority does find another space to lease, they must go through the temporary use permit process with city bylaw, which De Smit says takes about six to eight weeks.

She adds that it has been six years since the province declared a state of emergency regarding the opiate and overdose crisis and that overdose prevention services save lives.

“We still are in the dire toxic drug crisis right now. And it’s just taken too far, too many lives in the Peace River region, and across the province. These services do save lives, reduce risks, harm, and death.”

“These are brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, neighbours, friends. We had over seven letters of support from community organizations about how they felt that this would be a wonderful service based on their experience and the services that they provide,” De Smit said.

According to a Northern Health presentation to council, the centre would offer a range of wrap-around health services, including services provided by professionals such as physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers, and counsellors.

The proposed centre would also include overdose prevention services (OPS) such as supervised inhalation and injection, peer support work, drug testing, and distribution of harm reduction supplies.

Those who have a potential space to lease for the service are encouraged to reach out to the Northern Health Northeast corporate office or check the space specification requirements at BC Bid.

Northeast B.C. reported six illicit drug overdoses so far in 2022, according to a recent coroners service report.

There was one death in February, down compared to the same time last year when there were three.

There were 27 drug toxicity deaths in Northeast B.C. in 2021.

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