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Island Health broadens access for overdose prevention services in Comox Valley

What’s being called a multi-pronged model of overdose prevention services is coming to the Comox Valley.

Starting on Sept. 1, the services will be offered at 941C England Avenue in Courtenay. 

Co-located with Island Health’s Mental Health and Substance Use service, it will have two booths for witnessed consumption; access to harm reduction supplies and information; and on-site connections to mental health, social, rehabilitation, treatment, recovery and overall wellness services. 

Walk-in witnessed consumption services will be available Monday to Friday from 10am to 2pm.

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“Island Health is pleased to provide Comox Valley with a model that will support clients, broaden access and enhance our ability to reach a wider range of people who can benefit from overdose prevention services,” Medical Health Officer Dr. Charmaine Enns said. 

“The new model will also strengthen linkages to social and health care supports for this population.”

AVI Health and Community Services Society (AVI) has provided OPS in the Comox Valley since 2017 and will continue to do so at its current location and service hours until August 31st. 

“We are grateful to AVI and its staff for delivering this life-saving service in the Comox Valley,” says Dr. Enns. “People are alive today as a result.” 

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 Island Health’s new model features three services: a designated location, “episodic OPS” and the Lifeguard overdose app.

 On weekends, clients will be able to access episodic OPS (e-OPS). 

According to Island Health, it “supports people in a less formal setting that complements other health or social services they are receiving. e-OPS can be made mobile and be provided through outreach to homes, shelters and other facilities.”

 Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard says she welcomes the “broadened model of overdose services to the Comox Valley.”

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 “The overdose crisis has hit our community hard,” the NDP MLA said. 

“This new multi-pronged model of overdose prevention services (OPS) will meet people’s needs exactly where they are at.”

Leonard said Island Health’s new model also features a Lifeguard App, a new made-in-BC resource now available across B.C. and in the valley. 

Lifeguard supports people when they use substances alone by alerting emergency responders and others in the immediate surroundings through an alarm if a person is unresponsive after using substances.

Leonard says this new system of supports will better meet the diverse needs of people who use substances, and improve access for those who do not currently use fixed overdose prevention sites and remain at a high risk of overdose.

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