A downtown Whitehorse location has been chosen for a new supervised consumption site that will allow people to use drugs in a safe facility.
The facility will be located at 6th Avenue and Cook Street, an existing government-owned building that is being retrofitted to meet the needs of the new facility.
The Government of Yukon is partnering with Blood Ties Four Directions Centre on the operations and programming at the new site, which is expected to be operating by Aug. 31.
“We have lost far too many Yukoners as a result of drug overdoses. Opening a supervised consumption site builds on our government’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis and support Yukoners through a harm reduction approach,” said Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee in a statement.
“As we work to open this site, we will be engaging in conversations with local residents, businesses, First Nations and other partners in the community to share information about the value of this important space,” she said.
The supervised consumption site is an element of the Confidence and Supply Agreement and supported by both the Yukon Liberal government and the Yukon NDP Caucus.
It follows a worsening opioid crisis that has seen 44 overdose deaths since 2016. Most of the deaths have been attributed to fentanyl. Overdose visits to the Whitehorse emergency hospital are dominated by use of opioids.
The building on 6th Avenue was purchased by the Yukon government in 2015 and converted into a facility with 10 continuing care beds. It is located four blocks from the emergency shelter and two blocks from the Blood Ties Four Directions Centre.
Yukon will be the sixth jurisdiction in Canada to open a supervised consumption site, joining British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta, Québec and Saskatchewan.
The government says the supervised consumption site will help reduce overdoses and increase access to addiction treatment services.
Unlike a methadone clinic, which supplies drug users with government-approved opioid medication, the supervised consumption site will not provide substances. Instead, clients can use illicit substances on site where health care professionals can oversee use and respond to overdoses or requests for services.
The opening of the supervised consumption site was included in the Confidence and Supply Agreement signed by the Yukon NDP in order to stabilize the Yukon Liberal government.
“I’m so grateful for the work that community organizers like Blood Ties are doing to advance harm reduction in Yukon,” said NDP MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin Annie Blake in a statement.
“This work is what made it possible to announce a safer consumption site today. Folks who are struggling most will have a safe and accessible space right downtown — this will save lives,” she said.
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