It’s now hoped a mobile supervised consumption site will be up and running in Grande Prairie by the end of January. The plan was to be in service by now, but HIV North Executive Director Melissa Byers says they ran into delays getting the vehicle.
“They had an initial delivery date of mid-November, however, that was not feasible so the delivery date changed and changed and changed, but now December 21st is our final delivery date.”
Once the site arrives, staff will need to be trained and the federal government will have to approve making it legal for people to use drugs within it. Byers explains there are strict rules for handling anything left behind.
“We have to have a locked safe that destroys the substances and then a procedure where the RCMP comes and picks it up. They want to make sure that’s good and then they also want to ensure that the staff will be safe within the unit.”
The unit will have on-site security, panic buttons, and wristwatches for staff that can trigger a call to security and police. Outside, Byers says it will have cameras with a 360-degree view and a doorbell to get access.
“It’s going to be quite sound security-wise. We just want to make sure that our staff and the people using the site are safe.”
Inside the facility there will be a 2-to-1 ratio, meaning there can be two clients for every staff member. There will be room for two people in the consumption area, and two in the post-consumption area, where they will be watched for overdoses by nurses.
There should be two healthcare professionals and one harm reduction worker on shift at all times. On top of providing a safe place to use, Byers says the workers will be able to provide referrals for support services like housing.
“Harm reduction is very connection and relationship-based, so if we’re able to kind of connect with somebody who’s using drugs in a non-judgemental way, we might be able to increase their health and living outcomes.”
HIV North has also decided to run the site for 12 hours a day to start. It will be located by the Rotary House from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to coincide with the shelter’s curfew. The hours could be changed as needed.