Pubdate: Wed, 29 Nov 2017
Source: Nelson Star (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Black Press
Author: Tyler Harper


Packed event featured seven speakers, plenty of questions

The fentanyl death toll is rising in B.C., but so is local interest in
finding solutions to the crisis.

A packed room at the Hume Hotel heard stories and statistics Wednesday 
evening from a seven-person panel at an event called Growing Hope: A 
Community Conversation on the Current Fentanyl Crisis, which was put on 
by Nelson's Fentanyl Task Force.

Cheryl Dowden, executive director of ANKORS, co-hosted the evening
with Nelson Police Department chief Paul Burkart. The event had been
planned to run two hours, but ended up stretching to three as the
audience peppered speakers with questions.

Dowden said she was encouraged by the amount of community engagement
in an issue that has resulted in the deaths of 914 people from January
to September this year, according to a report released last week by
the B.C. Coroners Service. That number has already shattered last
year's 666 fentanyl-related deaths over 12 months, which at the time
was a major increase on the 152 deaths in 2015.

Ten deaths related to fentanyl have already occurred in the Kootenay
Boundary region this year, which is up from four in 2016.

"If we're not talking about this, we have our heads in the sand," said

The panel included local nurse practitioner Zak Matieschyn, Breakout
founder and Nelson Leafs assistant coach Sean Dooley, Pat Dooley, who
sits on the Interior Health Association's board of directors, Chloe
Sage of ANKORS, Julia Webb of Freedom Quest, Karen Leman of Mental
Health and Substance Use, and Jeremy Kelly of Nelson Street Outreach.

Matieschyn, who is also an addictions fellow with the British Columbia
Centre on Substance Use, opened the evening with a number of fentanyl
statistics. Some of those numbers include:

* The majority of overdose deaths, or 58.5 per cent, this year have
occurred in private residences. Just 11.4 per cent have happened outside.

* Just four per cent of overdose deaths had fentanyl detected in 2012.
Through September this year fentanyl has been found in 83 per cent of
overdose deaths.

Matieschyn said the rising death toll would be far worse without
awareness-building events like the one Wednesday.

"The point of this is actually quite tremendous and innovative in that
a community will get together, all these various stakeholders -
business, police, health care professionals, parents - all with a
common purpose to address this issue," he said. "So how do we keep
people alive and stop people from dying, but there's also these deeper
issues of why is there addiction in the first place and how can we
address those?"

Earlier in the day Matieschyn and Sean Dooley also spoke to students
at Mount Sentinel and L.V. Rogers, the latter of which they revealed
has four naloxone kits onsite. Dooley, and his mother Pat, spoke about
their family's experience with Dooley's addiction to painkillers and
fentanyl, as well as his recovery process.

Sage discussed ANKORS' drug checking work. She said nine samples of
fentanyl were found at August's Shambhala Music Festival, and that
two-thirds of cocaine tested at ANKORS' Nelson office has secondary
ingredients in it.

Webb, meanwhile, gave advice to the audience for speaking to teenagers
about drug use, Leman spoke about recovery supports and various local
services that are available, and Kelly shared his experience of a
15-year heroin addiction as well as his difficult recovery.

"I think there are a lot of faces emerging," said Dowden. "Certainly
there are so many people in this room who have been touched, either by
substance abuse in their family and they are concerned about the
overdose crisis and it may have on their loved ones, or they may have
experienced someone who has had an overdose and passed away."

Dowden said ANKORS applied last month for Health Canada funding for a
needs assessment meant to find local answers to the crisis. She said
that could include safety and prevention messaging, naloxone kits and
training, drug checking and the possible viability of a
safe-consumption site.

"We're looking at the need, we're exploring this and we want to engage
in community conversation about this," she said.
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