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

Just Posted

Weekend collisions keep West Shore RCMP busy

Officers responded to three separate incidents within the span of one hour

Get ready for the 39th annual Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon

Up to 9,000 particpants are anticipated for this year’s three-day race weekend

E&N Rail Trail open house this Wednesday

Construction on segment between Atkins Avenue and Savory Elementary to start this fall

Impaired driver crashes into Victoria police vehicle, injures officer

Cook Street collision occured in the early morning hours of Tuesday

School of magic teaches youth to be themselves

Organizers hope to run the camp next summer as well

Average Canadian family spends 43% of income on taxes: study

Fraser Institute’s consumer report shows taxes accounting for larger chunk of income each year

RCMP to search for body after man drowns in B.C.’s Buntzen Lake

Officers and fire crews responded but the man from the Lower Mainland is believed to have drowned.

Police chiefs call for stricter controls on pill presses to fight opioids

Canada’s police chiefs are urging Ottawa to beef up its fight against the opioid scourge by closely vetting people who import pill presses

Victoria police say explicit calls continue to target women

Over 50 reports of unwanted, sexually explicit calls have come in

‘It’s like a party in your mouth’

B.C. creator’s Milkshake Burger makes its debut at the PNE

Vehicle catches fire near Vancouver Island provincial park

Fire shut down Highway 4 in both directions

Get involved in the Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count

Environmental organization develops app to help with the nationwide count

Most Read