AVI Courtenay Overdose Prevention Service closing March 31st 2020
We are writing to let the community know that, due to loss of contract, AVI will be closing our Overdose Prevention Service (OPS) on March 31st 2020. AVI has operated an OPS in Courtenay since March 2017. We have been informed by Island Health that there will be no contract awarded for an OPS in Courtenay and that other plans will be made. Over the next two months leading up to the closure, we will be working with Island Health to assist those clients who have used the OPS to access MHSU services. As a result of the closure of the OPS, AVI will no longer be able to provide any supervised injection and overdose response services at our office. We will also have to close the harm reduction drop-in space that provided overdose monitoring, education, referrals and support. Further, we will no longer be able to offer 7-day week harm reduction services.
Our harm reduction distribution, collection, and education will be ongoing but only available during office hours Monday to Thursday 9-4 and 11-3 on Fridays. AVI will also continue to offer comprehensive overdose response training including the distribution of naloxone during these times.
We recognise that the number of visits to the Courtenay OPS has been significantly lower than in other communities. We do want to take the opportunity though to acknowledge and honor the achievements of this service over the last 3 years.
Since March 2017, our harm reduction staff have revived more than 43 people who overdosed in the OPS. This is on par with other similar sized communities during the same period, including Port Alberni (50) and Campbell River (46), despite having fewer visits. In the last year alone, our staff responded to 14 overdoses in the OPS.
The number of clients accessing harm reduction services has more than doubled since the opening of the OPS in March 2017. This has meant contact with a broader range of people who need harm reduction supplies and overdose response training, including distribution of naloxone.
The OPS staff worked with a group of very vulnerable people using illicit substances and saw measurable improvements in their safety and access to health services. With the additional staffing, the amount of support available and service referrals increased from before the OPS was available. This engagement lead to sustained conversations about changing patterns of use, as well as providing support accessing and navigating services available in the community. This led to improvements in access to clinical services including the Intensive Case Management (ICM) teams, Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT), and treatment for Hepatitis C. Making OPS services available not only connected individuals to a continuum of harm reduction, health care, and substance use supports, but also created space for people to remain engaged with those services. Of particular relevance to overdose safety is the work the staff have done to support people who are accessing OAT to maintain connections and access to care.
For more information please contact Katrina Jensen at Katrina.Jensen@avi.org