On average, the Penticton fire department responds to at least one overdose call a day. But on some days, emergency crews can respond to as many as six overdoses.
“Over the last number of years, it kind of ebbs and flows with the kind of product that is on the street,” said Penticton fire chief, Larry Watkinson.
“On those days that the product is more toxic you will see an increase in calls.”
Erin Mintenko, harm reduction program coordinator with the South Okanagan Women in Need Society (SOWINS) provides harm reduction services and supplies throughout the South Okanagan. She says SOWINS has also seen a fluctuation in overdoses depending on the product that is out of the street.
“Some days, some weeks are better than others and then all of the sudden there is a crazy spike,” said Mintenko.
“We have clients who come in and say that they’ve overdosed and its normally all around the same time.”
Meanwhile, the Penticton fire department and B.C. ambulance services work hand in hand to respond to the numerous overdose calls.
According to B.C Emergency Health Services, so far this year paramedics have responded to 22 calls in Penticton.
Watkinson says that even though cluster overdoses are trending upwards, emergency crews have seen a significant decrease in recreational or single-user overdoses.
“Because understanding the impacts of fentanyl and knowing more specifically where you are getting your drug paraphernalia from, we have seen a very sizable decrease in recreational or single-user overdoses,” he said.
Naloxone awareness has increased, and according to Mintenko, SOWINS gave out 3604 naloxone kits and 6389 fentanyl testing strips in 2021.
“Usually when there is a spike in overdoses, we see a spike in the naloxone requests as well as fentanyl testing strip requests,” said Mintenko.