Anna Kebaien, who serves as a liaison to the outreach team at Our Place Society, demonstrates how to use a fentanyl test strip at the facility’s onsite overdose prevention site. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Fentanyl test strips now available on the Island

Program piloted in Vancouver, resulted in reduction in overdoses

Echoing what harm reduction workers in Vancouver have been doing for over a year, Island Health has finally made fentanyl test strips available for people using substances.

Dr. Murray Fyfe, medical health officer with Island Health, said the strips are not 100 per cent accurate, but are a step in the right direction to potentially reduce the amount of drugs people are using and ensure those supplies are safer.

“What we’re talking about here is having strips that can be used by a person to test a small fraction of their drugs to ensure or determine whether or not they have fentanyl in them,” Fyfe explained.

“The test takes only about five minutes. The information they get from this will help them to determine whether they should reduce the amount of substances they’re taking, or maybe not use that particular batch at all.”

In addition to being distributed to overdose prevention sites in Victoria, 10,000 test strips will be dispersed to sites in Duncan, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Courtenay and Campbell River. The strips are free to people checking drugs while at an overdose prevention or supervised consumption site, but will cost the province $1 each.

“This has been run as a pilot project in Vancouver over the past year and what it’s shown is that for people who are using the test strips that they do tend to reduce the amount of drugs they’re using if it does test positive for fentanyl,” Fyfe said.

Insite, a supervised injection site in Vancouver’s downtown eastside, has seen very positive results with the project, he said of the reduction in overdoses.

At Island Health overdose prevention sites between December 2016 and Dec. 2 this year, there were 66,200 visits, 579 overdoses and zero deaths.

Sophie Bannar-Martin, manager of STOP HIV and Bloodborne Diseases – a division of Island Health – said the health authority will evaluate the effectiveness of the test strips and hopes to see similar positive results as Vancouver.

“The fear is still quite high,” she said. “It’s exceptionally unfortunate that we’re two years into this crisis and the number of deaths has not reduced.”

The hope is that the strips will also engage people not currently accessing supervised consumption services, drawing them in so they can use in a monitored environment, she added. “I think understandably people are scared and they are dealing with a poisoned drug supply.”

Part of Island Health’s assessment will involve collecting information from the perspective of those with lived experience to help inform VIHA’s responses to the overdose crisis going forward.

Through the end of October, 1,208 people had died this year from drug overdoses in B.C., including 198 on Vancouver Island.

In general, 87 per cent of all drug overdoses have occurred indoors. With that in mind, Island Health is working on making the strips more widely available in the community.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

fentanylIsland Health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Garden-sharing map connects Victoria landowners and gardeners

U-Map created by Young Agrarians after COVID-19 created uptick in garden matching requests

Oak Bay Grade 8 students end time at Monterey with drive-through goodbye

School holds socially-distanced completion ceremony

Saanich wins award for climate plan cut from 2020 budget

‘It’s truly an exceptional plan,’ says councillor disappointed with lack of funding

CRD warns of toxic algae bloom at Thetis Lake Regional Park

Visitors advised to avoid swimming in lake, keep pets out of water

Saanich police, pound respond to possible cougar sighting

Cougar possibly seen in area of 4500-block of Chatterton Way

VIDEO: Musqueam Chief captures captivating footage of bald eagle catching meal

‘This is why we have chosen to live here since time immemorial,’ Chief Wayne Sparrow’s nephew says

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, advocates say

There are provisions in Canada’s prostitution laws that make workers immune from prosecution, but not from arrest

Liberal party finished 2019 having spent $43 million, raised $42 million

All political parties had until midnight June 30 to submit their financial reports for last year

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

Most Read