A guide to the city’s overdose prevention, supervised consumption, and drug testing sites
Everyday, harm reduction services save lives in B.C. In 2016, harm reduction services assisted in the averting 60 per cent of possible deaths due to intervention, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control.
COVID-19 has only exaggerated the existing overdose crisis. 7 000 people have died from overdose in the last five years. 2020 was the worst year ever recorded for overdose deaths, with 1716 lives lost.
It is becoming more evident that drug testing and harm reduction facilities are a necessity. To date, no deaths have occured to date at any of B.C.’s overdose prevention or supervised consumption sites. Most drug-related deaths occur when using alone or in a private residence, and using with others or in a supervised consumption location can minimize the risks.
Harm reduction services not only ensure safe drug use practices but also reduce health, social, economic, and cultural impacts associated with drug use including disease and death. Many of these services also provide a place where users can reach out for social assistance.
With the number of overdoses rising, it is critical for drug users and their loved ones to know what services are available across the province and within Victoria. There are a variety of overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites throughout Victoria. Island Health provides a list of services across the island.
There are currently 32 supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites across the province. In Victoria, locations such as The Harbour, Cool Aid Society, and AVI are supports people can turn to for harm reduction services.
Overdose prevention sites across the province offer varying degrees of services such as overdose prevention education, take-home Naloxone training, harm reduction supplies, safe disposal options, mental health referrals, substance use services, and drug testing.
The Harbour, previously known as the Pandora Supervised Consumption Centre, has five available consumption booths, a safe injection site, harm reduction supplies and education, referrals to supports such as health, addiction, and social services, and take home naloxone kits. The Harbour is located at 941 Pandora Avenue, and is open 8 am to 8 pm.
Cool Aid Society, at their Rockbay Landing location, offers support such as education, addiction, health, and social services. This site provides harm reduction supplies such as needle exchange, and take home Naloxone kits. Users can find an on-siteon site supervised consumption open to the public from 8 am to 8 pm and due to the pandemic the an inhalation tent is available for resident use only. The Cool Aid Society is located at 535 Ellice Street and is open 24 hours for harm reduction supplies.
AVI Victoria offers harm reduction services such as supervised consumption. From 10 am to 3 pm, AVI offers harm reduction supplies, as well as offering support through education, referrals to health, addiction, and social services, and take home Naloxone kits. You can find AVI at 713 Johnstone Street.
The training and use of Naloxone kits testing and education is essential for reducing drug related deaths and is offered at many overdose prevention sites such as the Harbour, the Cool Aid Society, and AVI. Naloxone is a medication that reverses the overdose effects of opioids and allows those affected to breathe normally.
Vancouver Island Drug Checking Project, a collaboration between the University of Victoria and Health Canada, provides anonymous drug testing services. These services can detect if the sample provided is pure, or altered with harmful substances.
The Vancouver Island Drug Checking Project uses spectrometers, which test the full composition of a substance., and is the only place in Victoria currently offering this service.
Bruce Wallace, associate professor in the School of Social Work and a scientist at the Canadian institute for substance use research, is co-lead of the Vancouver Island Drug Checking Project.
“Some of what makes the illicit drug use risky or harmful is the unpredictable nature of the substances,” says Wallace. “And so drug checking provides more information to people about what the ingredients, the composition, and sometimes the potency is of those drugs, to try to give people as much information as possible.”
The storefront, located at 1802 Cook Street, operates every week day from 12 pm to 7 pm. The Vancouver Island Drug Checking Project also operates a location at 820 Cormorant Street which offers drug checking and harm reduction services from 11 am until 5 pm every Tuesday.
Many temporary housing facilities such as the Comfort Inn & Suites, Victoria Howard Johnson, Victoria Save-on-Foods Memorial, and Victoria Travelodge also provide services for residents only.