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Kamloops council to urge feds to adopt national overdose plan

December 16, 2020 - 11:10 AM

A Kamloops city councillor says she feels “powerless” to address the opioid crisis currently ravaging the city and the country.

Councillors Dale Bass, Sadie Hunter and Kathy Sinclair asked their fellow politicians during Tuesday’s council meeting, Dec. 15, to pass a motion urging the Government of Canada to declare the overdose crisis as a national public health emergency and seek input from people most affected to develop a national overdose action plan.

“I’ve been feeling quite defeated about our overdose crisis in Kamloops and unfortunately we’re number four across the province in terms of overdose deaths and we need to change this," Sinclair said. "As a municipal council, I feel powerless to a certain extent in making those changes but when you look at the provincial, federal response to COIVD-19, in B.C. we had 32 deaths from COVID in October which is terrible… but we had 162 overdose deaths in B.C. in October and those numbers just seem to be getting higher."

READ MORE: Kamloops council to consider motion urging feds to decriminalize illicit drugs

For Bass, the opioid crisis hits home.

“Today is the birthday of (my son's) best friend who died three years ago of an opioid overdose. My son is a wreck today… this crisis is destroying families and it’s a pain that never goes away,” Bass said.

“What I’m hoping comes from this is, what we do here today, other people will do and other provinces will do and then perhaps the federal government will realize they can mobilize on opioids as much as reacted to COVID and recognize this is harder and more complex.”

Bass said staff at Ask Wellness and nurses are burning out because of the opioid crisis and something needs to be done now.

“These are people’s sons, daughters, brothers, co-workers friends, and they’re not just a number, and I really encourage and implore other municipalities to make a similar motion,” Hunter said.

The councillors are urging the federal government to include “comprehensive supports and full consideration of reforms that other countries have used to significantly reduce drug-related fatalities and stigma, such as legal regulation of illicit drugs to ensure safe supply of pharmaceutical alternatives to toxic street drugs, and decriminalization for personal use,” according to a report that was presented to council.

Council agreed to the motion and will send it to other B.C. municipalities in an effort to can urge the federal government to address the opioid crisis together.

In October 2020, there were 162 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in B.C. This represents a 116% increase over the number of deaths seen last October (75) and a 26% increase over the number of deaths seen in September 2020 (129), according to the coroner’s latest report on illicit drug deaths.

In the Thompson Cariboo region, 83 deaths have been reported in 2020, more than a 50% increase compared to 2019, which recorded 40 deaths related to illicit drug use.

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