B.C. to use bikes, ATVs to fight drug overdoses in hard to reach areas | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. to use bikes, ATVs to fight drug overdoses in hard to reach areas

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November 26, 2016 - 6:00 AM

VANCOUVER - Paramedics will use bicycles and all-terrain vehicles in high-overdose areas to respond to a worsening opioid crisis in British Columbia, the province's health minister says.

"Over the last week, B.C. had the highest number of overdose-related 911 calls ever recorded," Terry Lake said Friday, adding bikes and ATVs will be used in locations where ambulances are difficult to navigate.

Lake also announced a $5-million funding boost for health emergency services and said medical-support units will be placed in some high overdose locations including the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver and in Surrey.

"These special units will act as a resupply station for paramedics, as well as provide care information and triage for those using drugs," he said in a statement.

British Columbia has had the highest number of overdose deaths related to fentanyl compared to elsewhere in Canada, with the provincial coroner's service reporting that most of the 622 illicit-drug deaths recorded between January and October involved the powerful painkiller.

Drug users in Vancouver also announced Friday that they are joining forces to combat the fentanyl crisis by providing the overdose-reversing drug naloxone to peers who shoot up in the city's back alleys.

Vancouver Coastal Health said the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users has developed outreach teams of two people each that will also walk the streets to guide peers to use safer injection techniques and pick up discarded equipment.

Another group of drug users called Spikes on Bikes will work the Downtown Eastside on bicycles.

The overdose-prevention bikes team managed by the non-profit PHS Community Services Society will also provide naloxone kits and recover needles from the drug-infested area, including a park.

PHS senior programs manager Coco Culbertson said the drug users understand what it's like to call an alley home while living in poverty and facing the threat of dying from an overdose.

Vancouver Coastal Health is concerned that more people may also die from carfentanil, a drug that's 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said he went on a ride-along Thursday night with firefighters who are swamped with calls to save people by injecting them with naloxone after an overdose.

"The intensity and frequency of these calls puts severe strain on our first responders," Robertson said in a statement Friday.

"They are tirelessly and very effectively responding to emergency calls in a devastating public-health crisis, saving dozens of lives a day."

Robertson, who met with federal Health Minister Jane Philpott in Vancouver earlier this month, urged the federal government to expedite applications by Vancouver Coastal Health to open two more supervised-injection sites in the city.

The RCMP announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement with China to try and curb the flow of illegal fentanyl into Canada.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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