New treatment option available in response to the ongoing overdose crisis

Island Health is introducing a new, injectable opioid treatment option for people living with chronic opioid addiction, increasing both their safety and that of the broader community.

Injectable Opioid Agonist Treatment (iOAT) will be offered to residents at the Johnson Street Community in Victoria who have not benefitted from other treatment options. This is the first time iOAT will be offered on Vancouver Island.

PHS Community Services Society (PHS), which also supports clients on iOAT in Vancouver, will provide the treatment under contract with Island Health.

“Everyone deserves to be supported in finding their own unique pathway to hope and a pathway to healing. For some people that includes medication-assisted treatments like iOAT,” said Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy. “Adding this life-saving treatment option in Victoria means more people will be able to find the help they need when they need it.”

Without opioids, people living with Opioid Use Disorder experience serious withdrawal symptoms, including severe pain and nausea. iOAT provides pharmaceutical grade opioids for injection and has been proven effective for treating people with long-term, chronic opioid dependency.

iOAT will be provided to clients through daily supervised injections in a clinical setting, which ensures the safety of patients and people in the community. Initially the service will support six people, and will increase to 20 building residents at full capacity. The specially designed clinic space includes four booths facing a medication room and a multi-use area where clients engage with health and wellness services.

“Addiction is a chronic illness, and it needs to be treated with all of the tools at our disposal. iOAT is an effective treatment for chronic opioid addiction, and is one more way we can address overdose deaths,” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer, Island Health.

“We are pleased to provide iOAT to the residents at Johnson Street Community,” said Tanya Fader, Interim Executive Director, PHS Community Services Society. “This will ensure ongoing access to effective treatment for people with severe opioid addiction, and will be an important addition to the continuum of services and support we provide to residents of Johnson Street Community.”

iOAT augments the suite of health services provided for the Johnson Street Community, which includes a supervised consumption service, referrals to mental health counselling, links to an on-site primary care clinic, and linkages to social and housing supports and substance use treatment programs. The Johnson Street Supervised Consumption Service opened in December 2017 for building residents.

About Island Health

Island Health provides health care and support services to more than 794,000 people on Vancouver Island, the islands in the Salish Sea and the Johnstone Strait, and mainland communities north of Powell River.

With more than 22,000 staff and over 2,000 medical staff, 6,000 volunteers, and the dedicated support of foundations and auxiliaries, Island Health delivers a broad range of health services, including: public health services, primary health care, home and community care, mental health and addictions services, acute care in hospitals, and much more across a huge, geographically diverse region.

About PHS Community Services Society

PHS Community Services Society is a charitable non-profit that provides over 1500 units of supportive housing, a continuum of harm reduction services, and overdose prevention in Vancouver and Victoria to those who are marginalized and underserved in society due to their forensic history, substance use, mental health, racial identity or housing status.

Island Health media contact:

Cheryl Bloxham

PHS media contact:

Akeena Legall