Neighbours of Duncan’s overdose prevention site are organizing to try to deal with concerns around the facility.
Mike Kelly, who lives close to the OPS, said many of the neighbours, both residential and businesses, feel the socio-economic costs of the OPS are being largely ignored.
“Since the Duncan OPS opened on Trunk Road (in April 2018), local residents and businesses have experienced theft, trespass, overnight vagrancy, loitering, trash and needle littering, loud and lewd aggressive behaviour on the streets, outdoor daytime sexual activity, off-site drug injection, and drug dealing,” Kelly said.
“In short, (we’re experiencing) nuisance and possible criminal behaviours that were rare to non-existent in our neighbourhood prior to opening the OPS. These are policy consequences that the neighbourhood focused at Trunk Road and Ypres Street is expected to bear without compensation or complaint.”
The overdose prevention site is intended to provide a place where people who use drugs can do so while being safely monitored and treated immediately if they overdose.
The site is part of the province’s response to the opioid overdose emergency that has gripped B.C. in recent years, and is one of nine that has opened on the Island since December, 2016.
Island Health is reporting that since the site, which originally operated at 714 Canada Ave. until it moved to 221 Trunk Rd., first opened, more than 22,000 clients have visited, 150 overdoses have been reversed and zero deaths have occurred.
Last month, Island Health extended its lease on the OPS site in Duncan with the Cowichan Valley branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association until Nov. 30, 2019.
The new lease agreement states that the Canadian Mental Health Association is committed to a respectful, safe and secure operation of the OPS, and to fostering good neighbour relationships with those who live and work near this service.
This includes discouraging congregation in and around the site, and having staff security patrols during open hours and contracted security patrols when the OPS is closed.
Kelly said the neighbours intend to organize, with the support of local law enforcement resources, a neighbourhood Block Watch program, and a Good Neighbour Agreement which the CMHA is bound by its contract with Island Health to negotiate and enter.
“We believe this two prong strategy will lead to a more secure and strengthened Ypres/Trunk neighbourhood and Duncan/North Cowichan community,” he said.
Lisa Murphy, a spokeswoman for Island Health, said in a statement that the OPS is a vital service and Island Health and the Canadian Mental Health Association want to ensure the service is a good neighbour that responds appropriately if and when concerns arise.
“We recognize there are some questions and concerns over where harm reduction services are situated,” she said.
“With support from Island Health, service providers like the CMHA work with local communities to build understanding for the need for the service, and will work collaboratively with our partners to reduce neighbourhood impact.”
Murphy said the application from the CMHA to operate the OPS, the only one received, was fully assessed against criteria included in the RFP to ensure it met requirements related to stakeholder and community engagement, client care and safety, connection to other community supports and treatment providers, to name a few.
“We welcome ongoing neighbourhood involvement around the OPS,” Murphy said.