Kamloops social agency looks for answers after four overdose deaths reported in two weeks

Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

KAMLOOPS - Staff at a local social agency in Kamloops say clients reported four people died from fatal overdoses in the last two weeks.

Bob Hughes with the ASK Wellness Society in Kamloops says he’s unable to confirm or deny the information relayed to him as it’s based solely on word of mouth, which is part of the problem of understanding overdoses. There is no formalized tracking of deaths caused by an illicit drug overdose in the province.

“We’re hearing that information in the community, not from the Coroner’s Service,” he says. “We don’t know the cause of the situation; it’s word of mouth."

Hughes says clients told him about a woman who died two weeks ago on the North Shore and a man in his 20s who allegedly died after ingesting pills. Whether or not those deaths were related to drugs or fentanyl is unknown, Hughes says.

“We’re a social services organization, not a toxicology lab,” he says. “We have no way of determining what’s inside the drugs people are purchasing on the street."

To address their concerns, staff at ASK are hoping to open up a dialogue to learn what's really happening with drugs in Kamloops and if it is impacted by a presence of fentanyl. Hughes adds there is a ‘deficit’ in communication between the society, Interior Health and other agencies. Currently the only way to determine if someone overdosed on the drug is to wait for a coroner’s report on a fatality or for police to make a drug bust, he says, but that information doesn’t always come quickly.

“It’s incumbent upon us to create a vehicle to share this information,” he says. “We’ve already got people who are keen on getting involved."

The society plans to develop an anonymous drug users network similar to ones created in the Kootenays and in Vancouver.

“We’re in an unprecedented situation with the presence of fentanyl with prescription and non-prescription drugs,” he says.

Awareness of the drug continues as word on the street suggests it’s not only a concern for chronic drug users anymore. He says recreational users should be cautious of their drug supply.

RELATED READING: Tracking drug overdoses needs improvement to curb the 'fentanyl crisis': Kamloops doctor

To contact a reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at gbrothen@infonews.ca or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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