A recovering addict said there is demand for a supervised injection facility in the South Okanagan and he’s surprised such a facility doesn’t already exist in the region.
“There is a lot of people out here that use and don’t have anywhere safe to do it… a place like that would be definitely beneficial for this town because it’s just a safe place and we need that,” said Allan Nutbrown outside the Soupateria in downtown Penticton on Monday.
While the Interior Health Authority is planning a mobile safe injection site for Kelowna, a similar facility is not in the works for Penticton.
However IHA said it is looking at “enhancing” other harm reduction services in the South Okanagan.
Meanwhile after a brief hiatus due to a lack of funding, the South Okanagan’s mobile outreach van is back on the streets distributing personal hygiene products and harm reduction supplies to those who need it.
Project coordinator Gwen Wain said public awareness to “not use alone” is potentially saving lives.
“I think we are finally seeing less people using alone, less solitary users, that’s a really good thing,” she said.
The overdose epidemic reached its peak in the South Okanagan in November with 32 overdoses recorded at Penticton Regional Hospital and one fatality.
Since then health officials said the ER records an average of seven overdoses per month.
Front line workers said the numbers can be flawed– as many drug users refuse hospital care.
“They don’t want their next of kin to be called or notified, or they don’t want whoever is listed as their emergency contact person to find out. If you’re young, lots of the younger people aren’t following up at all,” said Wain.
The widespread availability of Naloxone is also making a difference.
All 32 members of the Penticton Fire Department have been trained on how to administer the opioid anti-dote.
“We received the training last fall and we have used it several times since then,” said Deputy Fire Chief Dennis Smith.
The B.C. Coroner’s Service said 22 people died in the Okanagan in January 2017.
17 people lost their lives in Kelowna and two in Vernon, although Penticton statistics are not made available due to “small numbers and privacy reasons,” according to the Coroner’s Service.