Naloxone

Op/Ed: Interior Health CEO speaks on five years of strides and challenges in overdose crisis

In 2020, close to 4,000 people across IH had access to opioid medications

— By Susan Brown, President and CEO, Interior Health

It has been five years since the Provincial Health Officer declared a public health emergency in response to the significant rise in opioid-related overdose deaths reported in B.C.

Since then, more than 7,000 family members, friends, coworkers, teammates, neighbours and friends have been lost to overdose. Thousands more have been impacted and experienced all too painfully the devastation of the emergency in their own lives.

Just like with our current COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid emergency continues to demand a collective response.

Since 2016, we have taken steps forward. Interior Health’s Take Home Naloxone Challenge has seen more than 50 organizations complete naloxone training. Each time the training is provided, more people in our communities have a better understanding of how they can support the people they know or interact with who are living with addiction. They learn about available mental health and substance use services, including new resources.

One of the programs we’ve worked hard to expand in the past five years is Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT), which uses medications to treat opioid addiction, reduce drug-related harms and support long-term recovery. In 2020, close to 4,000 people across IH were able to access this treatment and each be supported in their individual journey.

As well, we have partnered with local municipalities and partners to strengthen overdose prevention services, including easy access to supports and safe consumption, which for many is an entry point to accessing other needed health care.

Two years ago, before COVID-19, provincial data showed our efforts were turning the tide on the opioid overdose crisis. We began voicing cautious optimism; however, with the pandemic last year came new measures and restrictions – and challenges.

While we cannot know the exact impact of COVID-19 on substance use and overdose rates, we do know there are correlations. Border closures may be impacting the illicit drug supply, as people who use drugs rely on unfamiliar sources. They may also be using alone more frequently as people socially distance or self isolate.

Currently, in B.C., more than five people are dying each day of an illicit drug overdose. In 2020, Interior Health recorded 283 overdose deaths, our highest yearly total ever.

This can – and should – make us pause. It should also renew our shared commitment to respond and continue to work together in the face of the opioid overdose public health emergency.

On this sombre five-year anniversary of the public health emergency, Interior Health is absolute in its resolve to keep our focus on reducing the impact of the opioid crisis and we ask you to join us.

Whether you take Naloxone training, learn about and support mental health and substance use initiatives in your community or simply reach out to someone who is struggling – this is the time to act.

So many of us across the Interior have already lost loved ones and been impacted directly by this crisis. We invite you to take a moment to remember those who have struggled with or lost their life to overdose, by sharing a photo and a message on Interior Health Virtual Memory Wall.

Just Posted

File photo (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Overturned kayak in Mission Creek prompts police response

Kelowna RCMP is looking to speak with anyone who may know the individual associated with the kayak

A drug bust on Government Street in Duncan on Tuesday, March 30, led to a "substantial seizure" according to the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP. (File photo)
Search continues for diver who went missing in Okanagan Lake

Search and rescue, RCMP underwater recovery team looking for diver missing since Saturday afternoon

Rutland Senior Secondary (Barry Gerding/Black Press)
UPDATE: List of Kelowna school COVID-19 exposures expands

School District 23 says two more schools have been exposed to the virus

A man and woman, both 33 and from Kelowna, were arrested on Postill Lake Forest Service Road in possession of two stolen vehicles Friday, May 14, 2021. (File photo)
Kelowna duo arrested with stolen vehicles after ‘brief’ bicycle getaway attempt

A man and a woman were arrested on a forest service road on numerous pending charges

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Penticton city parks staff were busy this week using the beach grater to sift through sand, getting the shores ready for beach season. When it comes to beach clean up they are collecting run-off debris, pulling weeds and picking up litter. (Penticton photo)
Hottest day of the year, so far, in the South Okanagan

Penticton city park staff cleaned up the beaches getting ready for the season

KCR Migrant Support Worker, Javier, had an exciting day escorting his son Ian with him during ‘Take your Child to Work Day’!
KCR: Volunteering is being part of a whole

KCR Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
B.C. boy receives medal of bravery, scholarship for rescue of child at Shuswap beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

This is what the glowing boulders look like at night at 28 Huth Ave. (Submitted)
PHOTOS: Glowing boulders popping up in the Okanagan

Local landscaper Brandon Messier also brought the Lost statue to its new home

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Coldstream Fire Department is on-scene Sunday, May 16, battling a fire in a Matner Lane orchard just up the hill from the firehall on Aberdeen Road. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Okanagan fire crew tackles orchard blaze

Fire broke out just before 2 p.m. on Matner Lane, which is just up the hill from the Coldstream firehall on Aberdeen Road

Someone or something is vandalizing birdhouses built and erected along Salmon Arm’s Foreshore Trail, much to the chagrin of a Shuswap biologist who looks after the houses. All but one of 32 along the trail are occupied. (Facebook photo)
Ongoing birdhouse vandalism rocks Shuswap trail, groups

Eight more boxes were destroyed Saturday, May 15

Most Read