Interior Health is trying to figure out what Kamloops is doing right in the opioid crisis

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KAMLOOPS - In the past two years, outreach and addictions services have increased across the Southern Interior with more deaths being attributed to the overdose crisis across the province.

But something different is going on in Kamloops.

The number of fatal overdoses in the city has stabilized recently. Numbers through to the end of 2017 are not yet available, but Interior Health manager of mental health and substance use services Rae Samson says Kamloops is on track with 2016 numbers, while cities like Kelowna continue to surpass 2016 totals.

It's not exactly a win, but epidemiologists have told Interior Health that there is a correlation between the services being offered in Kamloops and the number of deaths stabilizing.

"We don’t know that what we’re doing is causing that stabilization, but we can definitely say there’s a correlation," Samson says. "So what we’ve done with that is, we’ve started to study what it is we’re doing in Kamloops and what could be replicated in other areas."

Samson said a staff member is comparing services offered in the four major cities in the Southern Interior, being Kelowna, Kamloops, Penticton and Vernon, to try and understand what's working in Kamloops.

Several services in the city are Kamloops-specific, Samson says, including a group of Kamloops physicians who have come together to form the Kamloops Rapid Access Addiction Clinic, where doctors provide prompt help to folks with all kinds of addictions, including opioids.

Samson also points to the King Street Centre on the city's North Shore, where an intensive case management team works closely with seriously addicted people and offers outreach services.

There are also connections workers at Royal Inland Hospital to reach out to anyone who is admitted due to an overdose. The connections worker will do assertive follow ups with the patient, and also record all overdoses that present at the hospital, Samson says.

"I think there are some elements that are really unique to the community that we really want to replicate in other communities," Samson says.

There have also been mobile supervised consumption sites running in Kelowna and Kamloops since spring of last year, where users can go to either use drugs, be monitored after using, or access harm reduction supplies.

The funding for those sites was recently extended by six months, although Interior Health hopes to keep them running longer.

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