Interior health issues alert following spike in overdose calls in Penticton
The deadly trend throughout the province is continuing to be seen in the south Okanagan: opiod overdoses are significantly on the rise and some social workers said they’re having a hard time managing the need for intervention.
“In Penticton, we have a housing crisis and that is [from] low wages and really high and escalating rents and that drives just the most vulnerable members of our community out onto the streets,” homeless outreach workers Gwen Wain said.
“We already have all these service providers already struggling with the sheer numbers and then to add in the overdoses, it’s a lot.”
RCMP said they responded to about 20 overdose calls over the course of two weeks in Penticton; one of them resulting in death.
“I haven’t seen anything like this in my career. The amount of heroin use in this community and across the province has increased,” Penticton RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth said.
Wrigglesworth said while he can’t confirm if the overdoses involved fentanyl-laced drugs, he suspects the deadly drug to be a factor.
The Ministry of Health recently loosened the rules surrounding the administration of the lifesaving overdose drug called Naloxone.
“The last week and a half we’ve been out three times administering naloxone by ourselves and with the ambulance crews,” deputy fire chief with the Penticton Fire Department, Dennis Smith said.
The situation in Penticton has outreach workers like Wain calling for more people to get involved.
“The bars should have naloxone, front-line workers should have naloxone, any place where our clients go should be trained in and have naloxone,” Wain said.
In response to the recent spike in over dose calls in Penticton, the Interior Health Authority (IHA) has issued a level one alert, which essentially means local stakeholders within IHA have been notified about the increase in calls.
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“We immediately put out a notice to our community agencies in the region. We have put up posters and engaged with social development offices,” IHA chief medical health officer Dr. Trevor Corneil said.
Corneil said the authority is standing by and ready to increase its alert to a level two, which involves messaging geared towards the general public.
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