Kamloops and Kelowna overdose death toll surpasses 2019 by August | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops and Kelowna overdose death toll surpasses 2019 by August

September 23, 2020 - 4:30 PM

Both Kamloops and Kelowna have now seen more people die of illegal drug overdoses in the first half of 2020 than all of 2019, as the opioid crisis continues to be fuelled by COVID-19.

New numbers from the B.C. Coroners Service show that cities with the highest number of illegal drug overdoses are Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria. Kelowna and Kamloops each have the fourth highest numbers, at 36 so far this year, according to the report released today, Sept. 23.

Through all of 2019, 26 people died in Kamloops while 33 died in Kelowna. 

In Penticton, a total of 45 people have died of illegal drug overdoses from January 2018 to last month.

A total of 73 people across the Okanagan have died so far this year because of illegal drug overdoses, newly-released figures indicate, compared to 84 the year before.

READ MORE: Overdose deaths dropped in August from July in British Columbia

Provincewide, 1,068 people have died of illegal drug overdoses so far this year, higher than the number seen through all of 2019.

“The B.C. Coroners Service has detected a sustained increase of illicit drug toxicity deaths since March, and B.C. has now recorded six consecutive months with over 100 illicit drug toxicity deaths,” the B.C. Coroners Service reported.

Once again, post-mortem toxicology testing data published in this most recent report suggests an increase in the number of cases with extreme fentanyl concentrations in April, May, June, July and August 2020 compared with previous months.

From April to August 2020, approximately 14 per cent of illicit drug deaths showed signs of extreme fentanyl concentrations compared with eight per cent from January 2019 to March 2020.

Last month, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said recent numbers show it's time to adopt a medically empathetic model.

As is, the cost of the overdose crisis is significant and goes beyond dollars and cents, B.C.'s top doctor said.

"The things we need to consider are not just cost to the healthcare system but costs to society," Dr. Henry said. "We look at things like potential years of life lost... we're talking about mostly young people, people in their 30s and 40s, and some younger ... but also the potential loss to our communities, our families, our society."

In the weeks that followed, Dr. Henry issued a public health order to allow registered nurses in B.C. to prescribe safer options as alternatives to toxic street drugs. The aim was to separate more people from the “poisoned street drug supply,” leading to saving lives while providing opportunities for ongoing care.

“Giving physicians and nurse practitioners the ability to prescribe safer pharmaceutical alternatives has been critical to saving lives and linking more people to treatment and other health and social services,” Dr. Henry said at the time.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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