Drug overdoses keep adding up in Kelowna

This city has recorded 24 overdose deaths in the first three months of the year

Black Press                                The fentanyl crisis is taking a toll on Kelowna.

Black Press The fentanyl crisis is taking a toll on Kelowna.

Drug overdose deaths are continuing to take a toll on Kelowna despite a slate of measures implemented by health officials in the year since the province called the situation a public emergency.

Over the last three months, this city has recorded 24 overdose deaths. In the entirety of 2015 there were 19 drug overdose deaths and there were 47 for all of 2016.

These figures account for all drug overdose deaths, but Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said the rapid increase is likely to do with fentanyl and carfentanil.

“The introduction of illicit fentanyl to the illegal drug market has had devastating results, with literally scores of our community members dying in their homes across the province,” Lapointe said. “It has been just over a year since the provincial health officer’s declaration of a provincial health emergency and, while harm reduction measures now in place are reversing thousands of overdoses, long-term measures to stem this tide must include meaningful education beginning at an early age and evidence-based treatment.”

Of notable services expected in the valley is the first mobile drug overdose services clinic in B.C. It is expected to roll out in Kelowna by the end of April.

Dr. Trevor Corniel, medical health officer for Interior Health, told the Capital News the application has now also been made to Health Canada for an exemption to allow the clinic to also serve as a safe injection site.

A decision from Ottawa is expected on that application likely sometime this summer.

“We are still in the midst of planning the details on exactly how people will be processed through the mobile clinic and where it will be located,” said Corniel, noting that locations in Rutland and downtown Kelowna will be initial priorities.

“We hope to see activity with it up and going in the next few weeks because of the lease running out at the Ellis Street facility at the end of April.”