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Chamber supports City of Vernon on overdose prevention site

VERNON – The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce fully supports the City of Vernon and its stance against an overdose prevention site in the downtown core.
In a letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix and IHA president Susan Brown, the Chamber indicates that it agrees with a motion approved by city council May 25 that calls for an overdose prevention site to not be located downtown or in a privately owned building where private businesses may be negatively impacted.
“Since the May 11, 2020 announcement on a location for an overdose prevention site, the Chamber has been contacted by business owners near the site,” said Krystin Kempton, Greater Vernon Chamber president.

“We have heard concerns that customers, and particularly seniors and families, are worried about their safety given the long-standing issues of drug use, loitering and verbal abuse in the area. Beyond this, there is a significant financial impact with two lease negotiations grinding to a halt once the OPS was announced. These cancellations mean a potential revenue loss of $175,000 in gross rent over five years for the building owner.

“Our Chamber continues to believe that an OPS in the downtown core will compound existing safety concerns and decrease property values, particularly at a time when business owners are struggling with the repercussions of Covid-19.”

In keeping with the Vernon city council motion May 11, the Chamber is calling for the overdose prevention site to be located at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, which is within walking distance of downtown, has access to transit and provides a level of anonymity for those who currently use drugs in private.

“Minister Dix and Ms. Brown, we would encourage you to not only listen to the businesspeople expressing concerns but to put yourself in their position for a few minutes and consider how you would react if your career and passion were being negatively impacted. They are sympathetic towards those in need, but they require assurances that they can continue to operate their businesses unimpeded,” said Kempton.

“The Chamber also supports the position of the City of Vernon that this is not a debate about an overdose prevention site in the community. The issue is strictly focused on the location of the facility. It is time for the ministry and IH to have direct discussions with the City of Vernon, the chamber of commerce and other organizations in an attempt to create an environment that is healthy for all residents, whether they be OPS clients or business owners.”
Richard Rolke, Communications Coordinator    
Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce   
E:  P: 250.545.0771