Annual illicit drug toxicity deaths in B.C. from 1996 until 2022, according to the BC Coroners’ Service. (BC Coroners’ Service)

Annual illicit drug toxicity deaths in B.C. from 1996 until 2022, according to the BC Coroners’ Service. (BC Coroners’ Service)

Encouraged but not required: overdose prevention site doesn’t need Williams Lake city permission

Staff report indicates land use bylaws do not apply due to BC Minister of Health Order

A staff report indicates the city of Williams Lake likely has no authority to stop an overdose prevention site from coming to Williams Lake.

City staff will be presenting a report on a proposed overdose prevention site to the city of Williams Lake mayor and council at the Feb. 21 regular council meeting.

Staff was directed to produce the report after a presentation from representatives of the First Nations Health Authority and Interior Health at a regular council meeting on Dec, 6, which proposed a mobile overdose prevention site in downtown Williams Lake as a way to address the ongoing toxic drug poisoning crisis.

The presentation included heartfelt pleas for action to help prevent more deaths and statistics which show the high rate of toxic drug deaths in the area relative to population. The presentation also included some lesser-known statistics such as eight out of ten of these deaths are males and the average age of death is 43 years old.

Mayor and council asked staff to complete a report on the possibility of a mobile overdose prevention site in the city, specifically, what city bylaws might be involved, if any.

A report by Jessica Ball, city planner, prepared in consultation with legal counsel, will be presented to mayor and council for their consideration. The report includes letters from those concerned about ongoing issues in the downtown area, such as visible drug use and associated criminal activity, as well as statistics included in a report by the provincial coroner’s service.

Clarifying the difference between an overdose prevention site, and a safe consumption site, the report defines an overdose prevention site as: “sites managed by health authorities in cooperation with community partners across the province. These non-permanent spaces, which are often integrated with existing social or healthcare settings provide support, education and on-site monitoring for people at risk of overdose.”

An order from the BC Minister of Health allowing overdose prevention sites “anyplace there is a need” means overdose prevention sites are not subject to local government land use bylaws.

The report goes on to state: “The health order confirms that OP sites are urgent health services for which collaboration with and support from municipalities is encouraged but not required.”

Safe consumption sites are more permanent and are medically supervised facilities where people can safely use illicit drugs and require site-specific exemptions by Health Canada.

Read more: Council hears request for mobile overdose prevention site in Williams Lake

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