Pubdate: Fri, 23 Sep 2016
Source: Daily Courier, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Andrea Peacock
Page: A1


27 deaths to date during 2016 far exceed those in all of last

Illicit drug overdoses killed more people in the first eight months of
2016 in Kelowna than in all of last year, according to a new
government report.

In Kelowna, there were 27 illicit drug overdose deaths from Jan. 1 to
Aug. 31, compared to 20 overdose deaths in all of 2015 and 12 overdose
deaths in 2014. Across the Okanagan, there were 37 overdose deaths
from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, compared to 44 overdose deaths in all of 2015
and 27 deaths in 2014.

Health Minister Terry Lake announced during an update on the opioid
crisis on Wednesday that 13,000 overdose-reversing naloxone kits have
been distributed across B.C. and, so far, 2,100 have reportedly been

"Illicit drug overdoses have affected far too many of B.C.'s
families," said Lake. "Tackling this problem requires a massive
effort, and the dedication I'm seeing from everyone on this is
incredibly moving. No one wants more families to suffer, and we're
working together as quickly as we can to prevent future tragedies."

More than 11,000 people have received training to administer naloxone,
which is available at over 300 sites in B.C., including emergency
rooms, three jails and one prison, said Lake, adding the province
expects to reach its goal of opening 500 new addiction treatment beds
by 2017.

The opioid fentanyl is involved in 60 per cent of fatalities among
people who often don't know they're taking it, said Lisa Lapointe, the
province's chief coroner.

In Kelowna, there were 16 fentanyl-detected deaths from Jan. 1 to July
31 this year. This number far exceeds last year, which saw six
fentanyl-detected deaths during the entire year.

In the Okanagan, there were 22 fentanyl-detected deaths in the first
seven months of the year, compared to 15 deaths in all of 2015.

"It's an extreme and urgent problem for us," said Premier Christy
Clark in an interview with The Daily Courier. "Every one of those
deaths is entirely preventable."

Interior Health and the City of Kelowna have expressed interest in
opening a safe injection site in Kelowna to help deal with the growing
overdose problem.

"The thing about safe injection sites or harm reduction facilities is
they work better when communities are prepared to welcome them in,"
said Clark.

In July, the B.C. government established a task force to address the
drug overdose crisis.

"We are the only place in the country that has really brought together
law enforcement with health officials, with government and local
communities, to really get a handle on it," said Clark. "I think (the
task force) will probably recommend that we make sure there is more
access to harm reduction programs. We don't have those recommendations
yet though."

The province is also unveiling a new advertising campaign warning
people about the dangers of fentanyl.

"People need to know that if you are just a recreational drug user
smoking marijuana, you could easily be consuming fentanyl without
knowing it, and people can die from their first contact with fentanyl,
or they can be addicted from their first contact," said Clark. "I
think a lot of people just don't know how common it is, and how
dangerous it is, and how much access our children can have to it."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt