Island Health is seeking overdose prevention services providers in both Duncan and Port Alberni.
The contracts held by the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Cowichan Valley Branch and the Port Alberni Shelter Society expire in September, according to Island Health spokesperson Meribeth Burton.
“We are currently working on extending each to Nov. 30, 2018 on the basis of continuing the current services until the successful proponents are identified and new services are in place,” Burton said.
The contracts were directly awarded to the providers to get the ball rolling in a hurry because of the urgent need to respond to the growing opioid crisis in 2017 but now more than a year later, and in keeping with Island Health’s commitment to fair business practices, they’re now looking to secure service providers through requests for proposals.
Port Alberni opened it’s overdose prevention site in May 2017 and Duncan on September 2017, both on one-year contracts.
Burton said there will be no gaps in service while new, (or the same, depending on the results of the RFP process) service providers are found.
“It’s entirely possible that we’ll continue with our current service providers,” Burton said. “We’ve had an extremely positive, productive relationship. This is such a new urgent and emergent service that as we go to RFP, we’ll have several contractors apply. The numbers continue to grow so there’s a definite need.”
The goal moving forward is to have more than just a supervised consumption site, Burton explained. It’s about treatment, too.
Island Health has started to offer other support services at the overdose prevention facilities and clients are taking advantage of services like Opioid Agonist Therapy (the use of methadone or other drugs to prevent withdrawal and reduce cravings), she noted.
In less than two months at two facilities in the Victoria area, the number of clients has grown significantly as a result of the additional support and treatment services.
“We know it’s what our clients are looking for,” Burton said. “It’s part of the continuum of services.”
The hope is to replicate the Victoria models in Duncan and Port Alberni.