Chief medical health officer faces grim 2017 overdose numbers for Interior Health - InfoNews

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Chief medical health officer faces grim 2017 overdose numbers for Interior Health

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
February 01, 2018 - 5:30 PM

After another year of ghastly overdose statistics for the Interior Health Authority in 2017, the chief medical health officers says about the best we can hope for next year is that all the measures put in place this year to combat the crisis finally bear some fruit.

“Clearly from the numbers, the crisis continues and we have yet to reach a tipping point,” Dr. Trevor Corneil conceded.

The health authority recorded 238 overdoses in 2017, up from 165 in 2016 and 63 the year before.

Since the crisis was declared in April 2016, the health authority has essentially flooded the streets with naloxone, the opioid overdose drug, introduced two mobile safe consumption units for its largest cities, Kamloops and Kelowna, and ramped up the methadone and suboxone opioid substitution programs.

Closer data tracking of overdoses and overdose deaths is ongoing in local hospitals as is the introduction of intensive case management for the hardest hit communities.

“Since the crisis began we have brought into alignment the full spectrum of care for persons who use substances occasional, regularly or have a substance use disorder,” Corneil said. “We have seen the introduction of a full suite of harm reduction services."

If there is any good news for the Interior Health Authority, it’s the overdose epidemic is not surging at the same rate it once was, the number of victims climbing less than 50 per cent in 2017 instead of almost tripling in 2016.

Corneil won’t put a number on it but says the goal next year would be to see actual decreases in the hard numbers of overdose deaths like that of Kamloops which dropped to 39 from 44 in 2016.

“That is a good news story but now we have to determine what intervention worked, what factors made the difference,” Corneil said.

Comparing Kamloops with Kelowna and other Okanagan cities should help.

“We have a good comparison from the Okanagan numbers which are extremely high,” he added. “So now how do we learn from that and apply it to our services in other places.”

Corneil said the challenge in 2018 will be to continue to address the scourge of social stigma, one of the biggest single reasons people are using opioids and dying alone.

“This speaks to the large number of people who are using alone indoors in private residences,” he added. “How do draw those people out? How do we support those individuals in accessing treatment? How do we define their needs and barriers?”

Read more stories about the opioid overdose crisis.


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