Port Alberni’s Overdose Prevention Site is getting busier as the opioid crisis grows.
Executive Director Wes Hewitt says they estimated 250 local opioid users when the site first opened 18 months ago. Today that estimate has grown to 600.
Hewitt says traffic at the overdose prevention site has risen similarly – from fewer than 200 people per week at the beginning of the year, to a high to almost 650 the first week of this month.
Statistics show most weeks there are no overdoses at the site, but there have been upwards of 5 overdoses a week at other times.
Hewitt says one of the main purposes of the overdose prevention site is to take care of those patients there, and not have to send them to the emergency ward where resources are already stretched.
He said through on-site counselling, they’ve convinced 200 people to seek treatment.
The OPS on Burde at Third is bustling, with upwards of 1800 visits per week of people looking for emergency supervision while using drugs, or coming in for food bank services.
Hewitt says they’re aware some neighbours are unhappy they opened there without much warning, but they’re trying to mitigate any problems as best they can.
Hewitt says they send out their peer support workers three times a day to pick up garbage and drug paraphernalia from the area, and they usually bring back more needles than site workers distribute.
He said Island Health is very aware of local concerns and are looking into possible solutions.