Pubdate: Fri, 19 Jan 2018
Source: Oliver Chronicle (CN BC)
Copyright: 2018 Oliver Chronicle
Author: Lyonel Doherty


After Vancouver, Interior Health has the second highest rate of
illicit drug overdose deaths per population.

This alarming statistic was a sobering thought for regional district
board members after hearing a presentation by health professionals on

Administrator Rae Samson and medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema
said fentanyl is considered the cause or "poison" that is overwhelming
the illicit drug supply.

BC Coroners Service data show a steady increase in deaths across the
province since 2007. For example, the statistics indicate that
Interior Health experienced a rate of five overdoses per 100,000
population in 2007, compared to 33 in 2017.

In 2007, overdose deaths in the Okanagan totaled 13. Last year the
death toll was 126.

A state of public health emergency was declared in April of 2016 in
response to a sharp increase in overdose deaths in BC. Between January
1 and December 31, 2016, the province saw 935 overdose deaths,
representing an 80.5 per cent increase over 2015.

 From June 1, 2016 to November 30, 2017, Kelowna General Hospital
reported more than 350 suspected opioid overdose visits.

South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver reported about 15. Penticton
Regional Hospital reported about 175.

How many people are dying?

In Kelowna, there were 66 deaths from January 1 to October 31, 2017.
Interior Health reports this number is 70 per cent higher than 2016

In Kamloops, there were 37 deaths during the same time period.

Who is overdosing?

Interior Health reports that males aged 20-49 are overdosing; this age
group represents 67 per cent of all overdose deaths versus 17 per cent
of the total population.

According to the health authority, First Nations are three times more
likely to die of overdose compared to non-First Nations.

Statistics show that 47 per cent of overdose deaths occur in the
user's own home, while 13 per cent occur outdoors.

Interior Health says the cause of the overdose crisis is the drug
fentanyl. It adds that the underlying cause of this "epidemic" is
substance abuse, with mental health disorders and chronic pain as
contributing factors.

Interior Health has responded by distributing nearly 4000 naloxone
(overdose prevention) kits for people to take home. It has also
conducted more than 12,000 client visits and provided numerous
outpatient addiction services, in addition to opioid therapy programs
in 16 communities.

Interior Health is currently developing an injectable opioid agonist
treatment program for users. It hopes to prototype this program in
Kelowna by March.

According to the Ministry of Health, this treatment program has proven
to be the most effective approach to supporting abstinence from
illegal and non-medical opioid use, while also reducing mortality.
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