Advocates in B.C.'s Interior call for safe consumption sites on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency

·3 min read
Moms Stop the Harm placed shoes in front of Rossland's city hall on Wednesday to commemorate those who have lost their lives to toxic drugs and overdoses.  (Submitted by Diana Daghofer - image credit)
Moms Stop the Harm placed shoes in front of Rossland's city hall on Wednesday to commemorate those who have lost their lives to toxic drugs and overdoses. (Submitted by Diana Daghofer - image credit)

Community advocates across B.C.'s Interior are calling for supervised drug consumption sites on the fifth anniversary of the province's declaration of a public health emergency due to opioid deaths.

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson announced Wednesday the province will spend $45 million over the next three years to expand overdose prevention services such as supervised consumption sites, naloxone supply and integrated response teams.

The minister said the money, which is part of the 2021-2022 budget, will be spread out among each of the province's five health authorities.

Michelle Demoe, a homelessness prevention worker with the Ksan Society in Terrace, says the town needs a safe consumption site in light of the dramatic increase in overdoses in the past five years.

"There's definitely been a shift — drug usage has definitely gone up," Demoe said Wednesday to Carolina de Ryk, host of CBC's Daybreak North. "Many more people are using drugs as opposed to alcohol."

Data from the BC Coroners Service show Terrace had 11 drug toxicity deaths last year, or about three per cent of Vancouver's total. But the per capita rate of overdose deaths was only slightly behind Vancouver's.

Demoe says the community has been increasingly supportive of the idea of a supervised consumption site, but she's frustrated it's still in the discussion stage.

Michelle Demoe, a community worker in Terrace, B.C., says her city needs a safe consumption site.
Michelle Demoe, a community worker in Terrace, B.C., says her city needs a safe consumption site.(Submitted by Michelle Demoe)

"If [a safe consumption site] was here and it was open and [people struggling with addiction issues] could walk through the doors right then and there, that would make all the difference in the world," Demoe said.

In Rossland, B.C., former health-care worker Diana Daghofer joined other members of Moms Stop the Harm on Wednesday to place 150 shoes in front of city hall, commemorating those who have lost their lives to drug overdoses.

Rossland and other Kootenay municipalities recorded lower rates of drug toxicity deaths last year than many other B.C. regions, but Daghofer says people with addiction issues are still dying in the Kootenays, where not many government resources have been invested to address the issue.

"It just really upsets me because there's so much that we can do to prevent these deaths," she said Wednesday to Chris Walker, the host of CBC's Daybreak South.

Diana Daghofer, left, says a safe consumption site in Rossland and Trail would save lives.
Diana Daghofer, left, says a safe consumption site in Rossland and Trail would save lives. (Submitted by Diana Daghofer)

Daghofer says Rossland and neighbouring Trail immediately need a supervised consumption site where people can bring their drugs and get them tested.

Daghofer says her group has been lobbying the Interior Health Authority for a supervised consumption site.

"I know that [Interior Health officials] feel the same way, that we need to work together to resolve this problem," she said. "I know that the communities aren't happy with the status quo. They want to see it resolved."

Tap the link below to hear Diana Daghofer's interview on Daybreak South:

Tap the link below to hear Michelle Demoe's interview on Daybreak North: