Kamloops mayor pleads with drug users not to use alone as overdose death toll climbs in B.C. | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops mayor pleads with drug users not to use alone as overdose death toll climbs in B.C.

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
August 31, 2021 - 4:37 PM

It has been five years since a state of emergency was declared in B.C. to address the opioid crisis, and the province is on track to reach the highest year of overdose deaths on record.

Kamloops mayor Ken Christian pleaded to anyone using drugs to avoid using alone at a city council meeting today, Aug. 31.

"It's very clear the quality of street drugs here in Kamloops is unpredictable and unpredictability leads to death," Mayor Christian said.

From Jan. 1 to June 30, 2021, 32 people have died of overdose related deaths, with 26 in Kelowna and 16 in Vernon, according to a report from the B.C. Coroners Service.

READ MORE: 2021 had deadliest first half of a year for drug toxicity in B.C.

Christian called the continuing crisis "unacceptable," adding that it has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a press conference on Aug. 31, marking International Overdose Awareness Day, B.C's Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said drug toxicity is now the leading cause of death in B.C. for people aged 19 to 39 and it remains the overall leading cause of unnatural death.

Over 1,000 people have died in B.C. from January to June 2021, most of whom were in private residences at the time. Last year, the death toll was the highest on record with 1,733 overdose deaths — a significant increase after 2019 dropped to 743 deaths.

According to the coroners service, 86% of the deaths in 2021 have been related to fentanyl or its analogues.

Lapointe added that the safe supply program, where pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed as an alternative to illicit ones, needs to be expanded and given more support. The current program is a "step in the right direction," Lapointe said, but more is needed to discourage the illegal drug market.

To mark International Overdose Awareness Day, an event organized by Addictions Matters Kamloops will be held at McDonald Park on Aug. 31 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Glenn Hilke, coordinator for the COVID Meal Train outreach program said there will be livestream for a Moms Stop the Harm vigil and education opportunities.

In Kelowna there will be a vigil to remember those lost in the overdose crisis at Kerry Park at 7 p.m., Aug. 31.

READ MORE: Promised day spaces on Kamloops's North Shore still aren't fully open

— With files from The Canadian Press.

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