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Improving access to overdose prevention services – Fort St. John

Northern Health
News Release

Northern Health and FNHA logos

A new mobile overdose prevention service is now operating in Fort St. John to support people who use substances and help prevent toxic drug poisonings and toxic drug deaths.

The mobile overdose prevention site is a specialized service with a customized van and insulated tent, offering witnessed consumption of substances including inhalation, as well as Take Home Naloxone kits and other harm reduction supplies.

In partnership with the First Nations Health Authority and local peers, the Mobile OPS is currently providing four hours of service five days a week, with plans to expand hours and locations later this month. Startup funding for the Mobile OPS service (approximately $142,000) is from Northern Health, and funding from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions announced in 2021 to expand overdose prevention services for people at high risk of overdose province-wide.

“It is essential that people facing mental health and addictions challenges get the support they need, when and where they need it,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “I'm grateful that this new mobile service meets people where they are and provides life-saving support to people who need it.”

Fort St. John peer outreach services have transitioned to supporting the Mobile OPS, which currently services key downtown areas early each weekday morning before parking in the FNHA lot at 10130 100 Ave. (near the “two benches” park) for four hours each weekday afternoon. In addition, outreach teams are available to help connect people to other health services including mental health and substance use supports.

"This is a culturally safe initiative that meets vulnerable populations where they are at," said Julie Morrison, FNHA Northern Region Vice-President. "It is vital we do everything we can for our people as BC First Nations are dying from toxic drug overdoses at five times the rate of the rest of the population."

By March 1, 2022, additional staffing and peer supports will allow the service to serve a second location beside the Salvation Army Shelter (99th Ave. and 98th St.), and to expand hours of operation.

“We are excited to have the new Overdose Prevention Van on the road, saving lives and handing out valuable harm reduction supplies,” said Donna Ward, NH Northeast Director, Specialized Services. “The Mobile OPS is another opportunity for us to partner with the community to address the ongoing toxic drug crisis that has health care impacts in our community.”

Data from the BC Coroner’s Service shows 26 people died of drug toxicity in Northeast BC in 2021. Fort St. John, like many communities in the province, is experiencing an unacceptably high number of toxic drug poisonings and toxic drug deaths due to the illicit toxic drug supply. BC Coroner’s Service data also confirms that no deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.

For more information view resources related to overdose prevention and response.