The Interior Health authority has restructured its harm reduction services, putting them under one roof at a new site in downtown Kelowna, B.C.
Located in the old Vancouver Career College building at the corner of Leon Avenue and Pandosy Street, the new Outreach Urban Health clinic opened Monday as a one-stop shop providing primary care, mental health services, injectable opioid agonist treatment and supervised drug consumption for people struggling with addictions in the Central Okanagan city.
The old clinic of the same name, a block away and which provided primary care-only services to the vulnerable population and is less than a third of the new clinic's size, is closed for now.
Before the new integrated clinic opened, people who use drugs had to move between locations to access different services — opioid dependence treatment in Interior Health's Community Health Services Centre and safe drug supply at mobile sites in recreational vehicles running between Kelowna's downtown and the neighbourhood of Rutland.
The Community Health Services Centre is no longer providing injectable opioid agonist treatment. Drug users will have to visit the new Outreach Urban Health clinic for the same service.
Danielle Cameron, Interior Health's executive director of clinical operations for the Central Okanagan, says harm reduction is most effective when clients can access different services in one hub.
"People aren't always ready, so when someone does express a readiness or an intent to further their conversation or step forward on their wellness journey, we now will have a clinician in the same location available to potentially engage in that discussion … rather than sending them home and having them wait, accessing something at a different location," Cameron said Monday to Dominika Lirette, the guest host of CBC's Daybreak South.
Interior Health launched the mobile safe drug consumption program in 2017. But with the omnibus services offered in the new downtown clinic, the health authority hasn't decided whether to continue the mobile consumption sites for drug users living in Rutland.
However, Cameron says the health authority is exploring options for its Rutland clients.
"We're moving forward to ensure that the people who are seeking service in that line continue to get the services that they seek," she said.
According to the BC Coroners Service, Kelowna recorded the highest number of drug toxicity deaths last year among municipalities in B.C.'s Interior.