This sign is displayed in the window at the AVI Courtenay office at 355 6th St. AVI is closing its Overdose Prevention Service in March. Scott Stanfield photo

This sign is displayed in the window at the AVI Courtenay office at 355 6th St. AVI is closing its Overdose Prevention Service in March. Scott Stanfield photo

Comox Valley’s overdose prevention service closes March 31

AVI Courtenay to close, Island Health says ‘other plans will be made’

As of March 31, AIDS Vancouver Island in Courtenay will no longer offer its overdose prevention service (OPS) because it lost its contract.

The service began to operate in Courtenay in March 2017. Since then, AVI says the number of clients accessing harm reduction services has more than doubled. AVI has been told by Island Health that ‘other plans will be made.’

“Our service operated, I think, quite well for the past three years in the community, and we’re certainly feeling discouraged about the decision,” AVI Courtenay acting manager Ashley Hancock said. “And very concerned for the welfare of people that access that service.”

She acknowledges the number of visits has been lower than other communities, but the number of overdoses seen in the Courtenay office has been higher than similar-sized communities.

“Over the last four weeks, we’ve had four overdoses,” Hancock said. “We’ve now responded to 47 overdoses (since March 2017).”

Due to the impending OPS closure, the Sixth Street office will no longer be offering overdose prevention or witness injection services. It will be open five days a week with reduced hours on Fridays.

“But we will continue during that time to offer harm reduction supply distribution and collection,” Hancock said.

She notes AVI Courtenay continues to work with Island Health to conduct transition planning for clients, and to refer clients to access Mental Health and Substance Use services.

READ ALSO: Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

While its contract with AVI Courtenay for the provision of OPS ends March 31, Island Health said it is committed to providing overdose prevention services in the Comox Valley.

“We continue to define options for the provision of those services beyond March 31,” Island Health said in a statement. “Overdose prevention services are part of a broad overdose response strategy that includes education, intervention and prevention services, rehabilitation and recovery services, harm reduction, naloxone kits, counseling, supports and access to mental health services.”

“It’s not being cut from the community forever, it’s trying to get the best fit for our community so that it benefits more people,” Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard said in an interview. “The challenge is there to do the best that we can for people in need of this kind of service. I’m hopeful that it will grow out in a way that it helps more people.”

Leonard notes that recent statistics indicate a decrease in the number of British Columbians who have not survived an overdose.

“I think that’s a tribute to our program to increase access to the naloxone kit, for instance, and putting more funds and focus on the whole issue of substance use and the challenges that people face,” she said.

In a 2018 bulletin on the Island Health website, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick says overdose prevention services are one of many tools used to tackle the opioid crisis.

“It’s not just about people using drugs, and the safety around that,” Hancock said of OPS. “It’s part of a continuum of substance use support. It’s an important place where people feel safe and dignified in what they’re doing. We can capitalize on that moment and make referrals to other substance use supports, if and when they’re ready…It’s connecting people to a broader range of supports.”



reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Kenny Podmore, here seen at Sidney’s cenotaph in November, says he feels for the veterans after organizers had to cancel an event acknowledging Victory in Europe (VE) Day for the second time in as many years because of COVID-19. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich event marking 75th anniversary of VE-Day cancelled

Sidney resident first planned event for May 9, 2020 moved to May 8 before being cancelled

Individuals and businesses are encouraged to bring their unwanted electronics to Tillicum Centre May 14 to be shredded, recycled or donated. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria residents can shred, donate electronics safely

Vancouver Island Better Business Bureau hosts event May 14 at Tillicum Centre

Scheduling popular summer events like the Canada Day celebrations is difficult due to the pandemic. (File - Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke summer events schedule clouded by COVID

Public health guidelines hamper plans

The District of Sooke is looking at new plans to build a fenced dog park at Ponds Park Corridor. (Pixabay.com)
Sooke seeks input on dog park

Public comment welcomed until June 4

Potatoes have two genetic centre of origins, one from the lowlands in Chile and the other from the highlands in Bolivia. The highlands potatoes flower and produce fruit profusely, which is where the seeds come from. They contribute to exciting and ecologically imporant genetic diversity of potatoes. (Submitted/Fiona Hamersley Chambers)
Metchosin farmer shares how to invent a new potato

Using seeds anyone can name their own variety

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
MISSING: Salt Spring RCMP find woman’s car, still seek Island resident

Sinikka Gay Elliott is 5’3” with a slim build and dark brown short hair

A Saanich man received almost 10 years in Supreme Court in Courtenay for a shooting incident from 2018. Record file photo
Shooting incident on Island nets almost 10-year sentence

Saanich man was arrested without incident north of Courtenay in 2018

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Most Read