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Nelson group opposes safe inhalation site on Vernon Street 

A local community group is concerned about Interior Health’s plans to install a safe inhalation site at 818 Vernon Street in Nelson.  

According to a letter from Interior Health and ANKORS, beginning this month they, along with the Rural Empowered Drug User Network (REDUN), will be installing the site at the present location of the Nelson Friendship Outreach Clubhouse.  

The letter was addressed to the downtown neighbours and states the site will provide harm reduction services in the community and combat the province’s ongoing drug toxicity public health emergency. 

According to ANKORS and REDUN they are looking to build relationships and connect people and monitoring people in Nelson with health care and social support services, which they feel is a important aspect of getting substance users the care and lifesaving first aid when needed.  

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Interior Health says providing safe spaces, like the clubhouse, will reduce harm and save lives.  

But the location is raising alarm bells for the Nelson Concerned Community Group, formed in response to concerns about criminal activity in the vicinity of Vernon Street and Cedar Street. 

Mike Stolte is a part of the group and says he got involved because of his concern for his kids and says there has been a lack of responsibility and consultation from Interior Health.  

“These facilities are in close proximity to where children are, like the soccer club, scouts hall, the gymnastics club. They are all roughly 80-85 meters away,” he says. “The City of Nelson’s cannabis bylaws currently prohibit any retail store within 150 meters. 

“It seems ridiculous that we have something like this happening right next to kids activity. It is the heart of our community.” 

He says Health Canada requires provincial agencies to do extensive consultation before installing any facilities like the ones located on Vernon Street and residents have yet to have their voices heard by Interior Health.  

“There hasn’t been any consultation on any of this,” he says. “We want our due diligence in terms of community consultation before anything like this proceeds.” 

Stolte says placing the site near a kids’ activity zone is dangerous especially with the constant influx of medical emergencies, police calls and first responder calls happening in the two residences. 

“It is not ethically right to put any of this near where kids congregate,” he says. “Hundreds of kids come there, the Civic Centre alone has been there for over 80 years, so the first thing is to stop this safe inhalation site from being put in. 

“We are not in opposition to those who need help. We just want to make sure there is a place that works for the community, which is in the best interest of everyone in the community.” 

He says his concerns are not out of a lack of compassion but the approach to resolving this issue for everyone in Nelson needs to be done in a holistic way, so it doesn’t become a band-aid solution.  

Stolte says Interior Health needs to be more forthcoming, transparent and needs to communicate in order to be a member of the community. 

“I didn’t even know who was responsible, at Interior Health, for the facility,” he says. “They haven’t been honest in terms of being a good and responsible neighbour. 

“There is a lot of criminal activity that happens on their property.” 

Stolte says community support is going to be the driving force to bring awareness to Interior Health and government officials. 

“Contacting the mayor, MLA, the health minister and Interior Health is one way they can help,” Stolte says. “It is really important for residents across the region have their voices heard.” 

He says a petition against the safe inhalation site is circulating the city, and is asking for the community to consider signing it.  

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