Public Health Emergency response must include SCS

“A significant increase in drug-related overdoses and deaths has prompted provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall to declare a public health emergency.”

In Victoria, as in the rest of BC, an emergency response is urgently needed. The response we’re seeing so far, though, does not go nearly far enough.

While the province’s announcement includes many of the recommendations from the BCCDC’s DOAP Opioid Overdose Response Strategy, it does not respond to the Strategy’s critical recommendations to:

‐”Expand access to supervised consumption services in regions of BC where overdose deaths are a public health concern”
‐”Work with the federal government to facilitate approvals for new supervised consumption services in BC”
‐”Expand access to evidence‐based withdrawal management and substance use support services, including opioid substitution therapy which reduces opioid overdose risk by almost 90%”

An effective emergency response MUST include safer places for people who are at risk for overdose:

1/ BC government must demand that the federal government immediately permit the establishment of supervised consumption services and end the barriers imposed by Bill C2.

2/ the Island Health Authority must work with BC Ministry of Health to dedicate immediate funding to community-based organizations who are already working with people who use drugs to include supervised consumption in the services they offer. The City of Victoria has committed to having SCS established; Island Health must facilitate immediate funding for SCS.

Start with the services, follow with the exemption

Toronto and Edmonton both made the news in recent weeks for their steps towards Supervised Injection Services. Toronto is the furthest along, with Toronto Public Health recommending collaboration with three local health services that are planning to add SIS to their existing services, and committing to reporting on consultations by July.

Toronto offers 3 important lessons how to move forward with SIS. Rather than getting bogged down in discussions and technical considerations such as exemption applications, Toronto has started from the actual services and funding for these services, then moved towards discussion, consultation, and exemption processes. Here’s how they are doing it:

1/ Start with service providers:
Three health services in Toronto are planning to add small scale SIS to their existing
clinical services to improve health outcomes for clients. Toronto Public Health manages one of these services directly, and is allowing the three on-the-ground services to take the lead in coordinating program and policy development to ensure consistent and effective service delivery.

2/ Commit the funding:
TPH announced that funding for supervised injection services will be sought from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term care. They will find the funds: full-stop. There is no vacillation in commitment due to a sense of uncertainty about funding.

3/ Coordinate consultations and exemption applications with clear and immediate timelines:
The three agencies are each in the process of developing their Section 56 exemption applications, sharing information and coordinating together in developing their respective applications. These will be submitted to Health Canada in fall 2016. Toronto Public Health will assist with community consultation and report on outcomes to the Board of Health in July 2016.

The Toronto approach is working, and it has broad support. Check out this op-ed in support from four of Toronto’s former mayors.

We’re also busy here in Victoria. Here’s what we’re up to:
Inclusion of potential service users in service design and delivery

Victoria is a leader nationally when it comes to capacity for following best practices for including service users in the design and delivery of services. A lot of this comes from the hard work of organizations of people who use illicit drugs (PUID), such as Victoria’s Society of Living Illicit Drug Users, who are partnering with yes2scs in supporting the yes2scs Peer Advisory Committee (PAC). On April 7, PAC will present to Island Health Board of Directors on the important of making use of the expertise of potential service users in the design and delivery of Supervised Consumption Services. We’re proud of all the local work that has been done to build the capacity for this group to advise and provide leadership in moving forward with the most effective and appropriate services in Victoria.

We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the City of Victoria for our work in 2016

Our funding from the City of Victoria will be wrapping up this summer. Our work over the previous two years has been instrumental in getting the City o Victoria and Island Health to endorse SCS, and in ensuring these commitments are followed through on. Yes2scs will continue to play an important role in ensuring SCS in Victoria continues to move forward in an appropriate and timely way going into 2017, and in ensuring these services are properly funded and designed to meet local needs. Please consider making a donation or contact us about other opportunities for providing support.