Pubdate: Fri, 03 Feb 2017
Source: Nelson Star (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Black Press
Author: Will Johnson


Ten Kootenay residents died from drug overdoses last year.

"And all of those deaths were preventable," Police Chief Paul Burkart
told the dozens of people gathered at the Legion for his fentanyl task
force meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

"As far as I'm concerned, that's 10 deaths too many."

Burkart had invited representatives from the City of Nelson, Selkirk
College, School District 8,Kootenay Lake Hospital and many others to
attend the meeting, and he was overwhelmed by the response.

More chairs had to be pulled out last minute as the hall packed with
concerned faces, and many present were worried about people they knew
personally, including their children.

Among the topics being discussed during the meeting was the
possibility of introducing a safe consumption site to the Kootenays,
whether or not property taxes can be funnelled towards fighting the
fentanyl crisis, and how to approach the issue using a harm reduction

Fire department: 'I don't think we've even reached near the

Once the overdoses happen, which they will, chances are the Nelson
Fire Department will be amidst the first responders. And that's why
Captain Bob Patton attended the meeting -that and the fact that he has

"As a father, it's important that I talk to my children quite openly
about the calls that I go on so they're aware of what's out there, so
they can make good choices," he said.

"As a first responder we're dealing with two, three, four overdoses
weekly and a lot of them are associated with fentanyl. It's definitely
a strain on the work force and all our first responders as we see this
time and time again."

And he figures it won't be stopping soon.

"I don't think we've even reached near the peak."

Patton said the crisis is having a psychic toll, but they're committed
to getting vulnerable people thehelp they need.

ANKORS: 'People care that you're alive'

This subject is intensely personal for Chloe Sage of ANKORS, who has
witnessed two overdoses in her office within the last week. And now
that Burkart and others are signing on for a harm reduction strategy,
she has hope that things can change.

"Now that so many people have died, it's really become clear that this
is life and death," Sage said.

"People have to throw their ideas of morality out the window, get on
the ground and start saving lives. I'm very heartened to see this
move, because when this many different sectors come together who want
to solve this crisis, it means something will happen."

She thinks its imperative that a safe consumption be introduced to the
community as quickly as possible. Her message to those vulnerable to
overdose: "People care that you're alive."

"People need to understand that choice is a very complex thing. Some
people have more choices than others. Addiction eats away at the word

She said drug users need "a safe place to use until they're ready to
stop, cut down or change."

And we need to put aside any stigma or shame associated with their
habits, she said.

"Shame kills. If we keep shaming people for their drug use, more
people will die."

SD8 director: 'I want to keep them safe'

Youth are among the most vulnerable to overdose, and that's why SD8
director Lorri Fehr attended the meeting.

"It's incredible to see the support we have, especially since fentanyl
is just the drop in the bucket. It's the tipping point to all these
new drugs that have changed drug culture for our adults, and also for
our kids."

The way she sees it: "It's going to get worse before it gets

"The first time I realized it was a crisis is when I heard about how
quickly fentanyl can create an addiction. A number of our youth access
drugs on a regular basis, and in the blink of an eye they can access
it without knowing it and either die, or have such major changes that
they'll never be the same again."

She added: "This drug is so incredibly powerful and we have no idea if
it's in the stuff our kids are using.

"Walking down the hallways of L.V. Rogers or Prince Charles Secondary,
and thinking these kids could be gone tomorrow because of something
stupid like this - that really hit me. I want to protect them, I want
to keep them safe."

The most important thing, Fehr figures, is making sure the students
have adult allies that believe intheir success and support them in
their goals and decision-making.

Other elements, like making sure they're eating properly and getting
access to exercise, can lead them away from addictive behaviours and
towards a healthy lifestyle.

Nelson mother: 'I want to help create the solution'

Teeka Ferguson is deeply concerned about the crisis, and as a local
nurse and mother she was hoping to educate herself during the meeting
so she could pass on the information to others.

"I've seen first off how drug culture has influenced my clients," she

"I'm also here as a concerned mother of two teenagers, and I'm
wondering if there's no drugs that are clean, how do I educate my
child? How do I be a good parent? How do I keep my child safe? I want
to help create the solution and a sense of safety in our community."

She said the harm reduction model being touted by Burkart is
"essential" to the community's response to the epidemic.

"We need a situation where people can feel safe to come find
information. We can't make demands,because people will see that as a
barrier, so we have to be open and we have to support people to do
things as safely as possible. We want them to know the risks so they
can make informed choices."

Ferguson supports the idea of introducing safe injection sites to the
community. And if that means upping her property taxes, she's game.

"I think it's quite urgent," she said.

'Are we going to be looking at 20 deaths next year?'

During the meeting, Burkart reminded those in attendance of the

"If you look at the stats, December 2016 was the worst month for the
province. We've taken steps,we're introducing naloxone, but the number
hasn't slowed down. Are we going to be looking at 20 deaths next year?"

It's something he can't allow to happen.

"That's just not acceptable."
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MAP posted-by: Matt