Naloxone kits have been widely dispersed in the Central Okanagan’s drug community

Overdose death toll rises

The health authority has a number of measures in place to reduce the number of drug deaths

Drug overdose deaths are continuing to pile up in Kelowna.

B.C.’s chief coroner released January drug death statistics last week that show eight people died from an overdose in Kelowna.

It means that fentanyl is continuing to reach users at a high rate, and measures implemented to curb its deadly effects have yet to take hold, which isn’t unexpected.

At a recent Interior Health board meeting, Dr. Trevor Corneil said that new policies are just beginning to make an impact.

Among the measures showing success is the distribution of naloxone kits, which are used to save a person who has overdosed.

“To a large extent we saturated the market, but what we are trying to do now is reach people who are using on a more occasional basis who think that this won’t affect them,” Corneil said.

Throughout January, the health authority has also had some success with getting users into treatment.

“With follow up, we were able to track people who showed up in emergency and get them to opiate replacement program within 48 hours,” said Corneil.

Opiate agonist therapy is the mainstay of treatment for persons who are opiate dependent.

“It’s been shown for last 20 years that it’s the best way to deal with this disease,” he said.

Now methadone and suboxone are covered under pharmacare, which offers an avenue for wider distribution.

“Now we’re really reaching out to physicians and practitioners who can prescribe suboxone and methadone to create more access points,” he said.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said another solution may also work,

“For these people, I think we would be wise to seriously consider the carefully considered suggestion made by provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall – the possibility of providing clean, medical-grade heroin to that small subset of users for whom nothing else has worked,” she said.

A total of 116 people in B.C. died of an illicit drug overdose in the first month of 2017, according to a new B.C. Coroners Service report released Friday.

That’s an average of seven deaths every two days in January – the third highest rate of deaths per month in recent months. December still saw the most deaths – 142. A total of 914 British Columbians died of a drug overdose in 2016.