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SD60 left in dark on drug overdose site planned near FSJ elementary

Site scheduled to open this fall/winter.
Proposed location for a supervised drug consumption and overdose prevention site on 100 Avenue in Fort St. John.

School District 60 officials would like more information about a Northern Health plan to put more potential burnouts, addicts, and drug users looking to avoid an overdose - near a Fort St. John elementary school.

SD60 officials say they have been left in the dark, and at the back of the class by Northern Health about an overdose prevention site plotted for 10607 100th Ave, in Fort St. John near Ecole Central Elementary school.

“The only information that we have had to date has come from the local media,” says SD60 chair Helen Gilbert in a letter to Dr. Jong Kim, Chief Medical Health Officer of Northern Health concerning this lack of consultation.

“There has been no communication regarding the decision to locate an overdose prevention site at 10607 100th Avenue which is in close proximity to Ecole Central Elementary although according to an Alaska Highway News article dated Feb. 16, 2023 a five-year lease for the property has been signed.”

Gilbert said there has also been no communication regarding the measures that may be planned to address the safety concerns that are being raised with SD 60 staff and management.

“We do realize that under Ministerial Order M488 that Northern Health has the duty and right to establish services to deal with overdose prevention. Prior to this order, we believe the municipality would have had to be consulted regarding the location of an overdose prevention site or a site offering supervised consumption services,” writes Gilbert.

“(For example) liquor and Cannabis stores would not be allowed in such close proximity to schools. At our March board meeting, we faced questions from some public and we did not have answers or information because there has been no communication with us.”

The 2017 Supervised Consumption Services Operational Guidance prepared by the Ministry of Health and British Columbia Centre on Substance Use gives guidelines for key stakeholder consultation and engagement as well as broader community consultation.

The School District is a key stakeholder according to this document and should be involved in discussions related to planned safety measures for the community.

School division questions for Northern Health:

In choosing this location for the overdose prevention site we wonder if any consideration was given to other services provided in this area, especially for children?

We also wonder about the level of service that will be provided at this site. Is it an overdose prevention site or a safe consumption site?

What is the learning from overdose prevention sites or safe consumption sites in other areas of the province that will be applied to reduce the safety risk to others in our community that are not clients of the site?

Will the Ministry of Health be responsible for putting in safety measures for the community in addition to those provided for staff?

“We recognize that an overdose prevention site is a measure to address the overdose crisis and, improve overall community health. During the pandemic, there was a partnership between the School District and Public health based on respectful communication and a recognition of the roles we play in student safety, concludes Gilbert.

“Currently, the level of communication regarding the proposed Overdose Prevention site does not recognize this partnership.”

A request to interview Gilbert concerning the matter has been extended to her, as well as to Northern Health for comment.

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