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Kelowna, B.C. mayor reacts to string of weekend overdose deaths

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Kelowna’s mayor reacts to Saturday’s string of overdose deaths
WATCH: After a deadly weekend in Kelowna that saw five people die from overdoses in a span of 9 hours, Kelowna's mayor is among those speaking out. Jayden Wasney reports – Sep 26, 2022

RCMP in Kelowna and West Kelowna responded to three calls for drug poisonings in nine hours.

Five people were found dead Saturday, and all were roughly the same age — around 30 years old. Kelowna’s mayor calls this weekend in his city a terrible tragedy and wants to remind residents to end the stigma around drug use and homelessness.

“Stigma is the reason why people are using drugs alone, and are ending up dead,” explained Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran.

“It’s horrific news, and it’s something that we need to collectively as a society continue investing in so that this doesn’t keep happening.”

Basran says more work needs to be done by all levels of government and the community to help prevent future overdose deaths.

Read more: Kelowna, B.C., RCMP issues toxic drug warning as five people die on Saturday

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“There is some great work being done locally with Moms Stop the Harm who are calling for a safe drug supply and that’s something that you’ve heard from provincial leaders and other levels of government,” said Basran.

“I’m also supportive of a safe drug supply but we also need treatment when people need it.”

Of those found deceased Saturday, all were inside a home, while one person died alone, and the others were found in pairs. Interior Health wants to remind everyone that plans on consuming substances to plan ahead.

“Interior Health can help,” said Interior Health chief medical officer, Dr. Silvina Mema.

Read more: B.C. toxic drug deaths double since 2016

“We have a machine that can help people understand what it is in their substance before they use it, and also it’s important that they are with somebody, to not use alone and have naloxone.”

Dr. Mema added that those who passed away Saturday as a result of overdoses were recreational users and did not have a substance use disorder.

“The current toxic drug supply is particularly risky or dangerous for individuals who are, who don’t have tolerance to substances, who are trying for the first time or who have relapsed,” said Dr. Mema.

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Ahead of a concert at UBC Okanagan on Sunday night, Kelowna RCMP reached out to the institution to warn them of the potential of toxic drugs circulating. Enhanced safety measures were taken by the UBCO such as extra security, medical teams and a drug testing booth.

Read more: Okanagan saw toxic drug deaths surge this summer

“The only real incident we had was that three students had a little bit too much to drink, so other than that it was really good,” explained Kelowna RCMP Const. Mike Della-Paolera.

“The investigation is still ongoing, and the BC Coroners Service is the lead in the investigation. Our forensics team is working on determining what exactly we’re dealing with here.”

Interior Health says they received indication that the individuals who passed away Saturday had used inhalation as a method of consumption and want to remind the public that inhalation is not safer than injecting.

In July, 192 British Columbians lost their lives to toxic drugs, a 31-per cent increase in deaths from the month prior.

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