A new overdose prevention service is coming to Powell River.

The project is a partnership between the Powell River Community Action Team and Vancouver Coastal Health. The fatal overdose rates in Powell River are the second highest in the entire VCH region.

Last year, BC Emergency Health Services reported 76 calls for overdose in Powell River. As of May 26th this year, there have been 26 calls for overdose. VCH says those numbers don’t capture all opioid overdoses in the community and may also include cases of alcohol intoxication and poisonings.

“Communities in every corner of the province are impacted by the overdose crisis, including Powell River,” says Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “We know these services work. They save lives. This OPS will help ensure that people who use substances in Powell River will have access to life saving services and connections to treatment and recovery and social services where and when they need them.”

The Powell River Overdose Prevention Site will open this month in a temporary structure in a lot on Joyce Avenue near Duncan Street.

VCH says it will provide clinical support and harm reduction supplies, while PREP Community Programs, a local not-for-profit agency, will manage the site day to day. PREP staff and local peers, who have been trained in overdose prevention and harm reduction, will monitor clients and connect them to life-saving services like detox, addictions counselling and other medical treatment.

The City of Powell River is leasing the land to the proponents for free for one year. The service is being funded by VCH as well as Powell River’s Community Action Team (CAT) which includes members from 67 local organizations including municipal government, Tla’amin Nation, first responders, frontline community agencies, experts, residents and families with lived experience.

“Stigma and shame cause people to use alone, putting them at extreme risk of fentanyl poisoning and overdose,” said Kathryn Colby, Coordinator, Powell River Community Action Team. “Middle aged men, many with young families, are incredibly vulnerable to accidental overdose death, leaving a social toll on the community which we have yet to fully realize. This overdose prevention site pilot is a community-created project, designed to address these preventable tragedies.”

VCH, PREP, and the City of Powell River are developing a good neighbour agreement, which will outline the society’s commitment to minimize impact on the surrounding community. As with other OPS sites in the VCH region, staff will ensure a safe and well-kept environment around the service.