Campbell River will have a new overdose prevention services (OPS) provider on June 1, Island Health announced.
Vancouver Island Mental Health Society (VIMHS) will replace the existing OPS provider, AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI) which has served the community since 2017.
The contract was awarded to VIMHS in February after Island health requested proposals in 2019.
VIMHS will operate out of their Sobering and Assessment Centre at 1330 Dogwood Street.
Island health stated that a key goal in selecting a provider was to increase access to overdose prevention services for individuals who use substances privately and do not attend the OPS site and are therefore at the highest risk of overdose.
According to Island Health, the Sobering and Assessment Centre offers an opportunity to reach these high-risk individuals who do not engage with OPS services in Campbell River.
Dr. Charmaine Enns, medical health officer for North Island (VIHA), said that they were concerned about “low utilization” of OPS in Campbell River.
Statistically Campbel River’s OPS utilization was among the lowest on the Island as compared to neighbouring regions like Port Alberni where more than 450 people access OPS.
According to Enns, the utilization of OPS in Campbell River has been at an average of 48 people for a while, whereas the number of people that have been identified to use substances in Campbell River is close to 1,000.
“We have an obligation to increase the access to these services,” said Enns.
Earlier this week Island Health also announced an increase in the number of overdose cases in March on the Island during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, AVI has indicated that as a result of discontinuing the OPS which was integrated into their harm reduction program, they will have to pull back from some of the services they offered, including supervised injections. AVI will also close the harm reduction drop-in space that provided overdose monitoring, education and support.
AVI will work along with Island Health to help existing clients transition and adjust to the new OPS provider in the coming weeks.