B.C.’s overdose crisis will be one of the toughest problems facing those who will be elected to civic office around the province this month.
A declared public health emergency remains in effect in B.C. because of the hundreds of deaths from opioid drugs, despite a 20-per-cent decrease year over year.
Up until August of this year, 972 illicit drug overdose deaths were recorded in B.C.
That was slightly lower than the 1,058 deaths recorded during the same period in 2017, which was the worst year for overdose deaths in the province’s history.
A Kelowna group that offers addiction services invited candidates to learn how to administer Naloxone in order to better equip community leaders to deal with the problem first hand.
Participants were told to try to wake a potential overdose victim, call 911, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation using a barrier provided in the kit, then fill a syringe with the antidote and administer it quickly.
“You know, it is nerve wracking,” Kelowna city Coun. Mohini Singh said of the training.
“Because seconds, frames of a second count. There’s just one person and you’ve got all this to administer; open up the airways, put the injection in. You have to be really focused, really fast, and make sure you get everything right.”
Just over a dozen current members of Kelowna city council and those vying for a position came to participate in the Naloxone training seminar put on by the Bridge Youth and Family Services on Tuesday night.
“They were invited out of recognition that they’re leaders in the community; they either are now or will be in the future,” Bridge executive director Celine Thompson said. “We believe they can set the example that Naloxone training is something that everybody in our community needs because our rates of overdose deaths are so high.”
Thompson said more lives could be saved if everyone committed to learn how to use the free Naloxone kits.
“We have the ability to make everybody ready to be able to save their neighbour’s life,” she said. “Why wouldn’t we do that?”
The majority (87 per cent) of illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C. happen in private residences, according to the latest report by the BC Coroners Service.
Fentanyl has been found to be involved in 75.6 per cent of deaths.
The majority of those dying are men, according to statistics gathered between 2008 and 2018.
The latest information found 777 men and 195 women died in 2018 from illicit drug overdoses in 2018.
More overdoses have happened on Thursdays in 2018, while Friday saw higher averages in 2017. Averages were higher on Saturdays in previous years.
The three townships experiencing the highest number of illicit drug overdoses in 2018 are Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria, according to the BC Coroners Service.
“There were no deaths at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites,” it stated.