Pubdate: Wed, 03 May 2017
Source: Kelowna Capital News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017, West Partners Publishing Ltd.
Author: Kathy Michaels


The clients and workers at Living Positive Resource Centre are on the
front line of a tragedy

A makeshift memorial filled with little paper hearts was added to the
front office at the Living Positive Resource Centre last summer, to
remember those lost to the fentanyl crisis.

"There are so many people who walked through our doors every day for
years and we're not going to see them again," said Sheila Kerr, harm
reduction and education co-ordinator with Living Positive.

The memorial offers a chance for people to remember who they lost and
find a little calm amid the crisis that's unfolded around them.

"I'll be told about one death in the morning, then I will have another
person tell me about the death of someone elseĀ…the community is
traumatized," she said.

"A couple of years ago, a non fatal overdose would be the talk of the
town for months-that's not the case now. People don't have a chance to
process the death to grieve or mourn because there will be another
death to follow."

The numbers the Coroner's Office provides once a month offers
supporting evidence. There have been 24 overdose deaths in Kelowna
since the start of the year and, while many measures have been
implemented to reduce drug deaths, casualties keep adding up.

The gravity of the situation became even more clear across B.C. last
Wednesday, when front-line workers responded to 130 suspected
overdoses April 26-that's the most overdose calls in a single day.

BC Emergency Health Services says that figure included 18 suspected
overdoses in the Interior, 52 in Vancouver, 38 in the Fraser Valley,
and 18 on Vancouver Island.

While the losses keep adding up, the trauma isn't being

"There are no services for people to go and talk about their losses,"
she said.

The overdose death crisis is being addressed in a number of ways, but
Kerr said she believes an important piece is education, both for the
user and the general public.

"Segments of the population are becoming more aware of the issue and
the need for more creative approaches," she said. "But I still can't
read comments on news stories out there. There's still a lot of
judgement and blame, but not a lot of understanding of the issues that
surround addiction or people who use substances."

The health authority, she said, is making headway by implementing
forward thinking policies. One of which is the mobile overdose
prevention site which rolled out late last month.

Interior Health sent out a notice last week that it would now be
offering overdose prevention services in Kelowna using a mobile unit.
The mobile unit replaced the overdose prevention site at 1340 Ellis
Street which is now closed and will stop at a downtown location and a
Rutland location.

"The mobile overdose prevention unit will offer a place where people
who use drugs can be safely monitored and treated if they overdose,"
reads the statement from Interior Health.

"The unit will also provide enhanced harm reduction services including
the distribution of naloxone and other harm reduction supplies as well
as some primary health care services (wound care/ foot care etc.)"

They stressed that a mobile overdose prevention unit differs from a
supervised consumption site and staff will not be supervising drug use
in the mobile units until an exemption for a supervised consumption
site is approved by Health Canada.

Kerr worked a few shifts at the brick and mortar prevention site
before it closed and said she saw an increase over time in the amount
of people using the service as people began to become more familiar
and comfortable with the idea. Often, she explained, it is the stigma
associated with substance use that prevents people from accessing such

"Once it is identified as a safe and respectful place for people to
be, it will contribute greatly to saving lives," she said.

"We need to stop having people die."
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