There’s some good news coming from the streets of Kelowna in terms of opioid overdoses, at least according to front-line worker Phillip Whatman.
Whatman is the Emergency Services manager at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission. He admits when the fentanyl crisis began “it was overwhelming.”
Now, from what he’s seen at the Gospel Mission, the number of overdoses has decreased dramatically.
“The situation has got better.”
In April, B.C.’s public health officer declared the first ever public health emergency in response to the number of fentanyl related deaths in 2016.
As part of the strategy to combat the deadly crisis, Interior Health has now made Naloxone kits, a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, easily accessible at all emergency rooms and community health centres.
“The scientific evidence suggests removing barriers to access of Naloxone is the way to go in order to respond to the overdose emergency,” said Interior Health medical health officer, Dr. Silvina Mema.
There’s been a sharp increase in fentanyl related overdose deaths in the Okanagan, with 16 in the first five months of 2016, compared to 13 in all of 2015.
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Interior Health admits there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.
“We are not stopping the crisis at the speed we would like to, unfortunately,” said Dr. Mema.
But IH does believe having the kits more accessible will only help. So too, does Whatman.
“I think it helps a lot. You never know where people are going to overdose.”
While Whatman can’t say the province’s emergency declaration is behind the decrease in overdoses he’s witnessed, he’s just happy the number of incidents are starting to get under control.
While Whatman can’t say the province’s emergency declaration is behind the decrease, he’s just happy the number of incidents are starting to get under control.