Paramedics responded to record spike in Thompson-Okanagan overdose calls last year | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Paramedics responded to record spike in Thompson-Okanagan overdose calls last year

Image Credit: B.C. Ambulance via Flickr
January 21, 2021 - 5:00 PM

Paramedics responded to a record number of overdose calls last year in the Thompson Okanagan, echoing the stunning increase in calls reported province-wide for 2020.

In July 2020, B.C. Emergency Health Services says paramedics handled the highest number of overdose responses ever recorded in a single month, 2,706 calls, roughly 87 calls a day.

The final number of for 9-1-1 calls from someone suffering a potential overdose was 27,067 in 2020 in B.C., an increase of 12% compared to 2019. Interior Health reported an increase to a record 4,211 calls, up from 3,097 the previous year.

“It’s hard for every paramedic who goes to those scenes,” says Penticton paramedic Unit Chief Pat Hussey, in a press release issued by B.C. Emergency Health Services. Penticton had 474 overdose calls in 2020, up 87% from the previous year.

READ MORE: Kelowna, Kamloops see record breaking number of illicit drug overdose deaths

Keremeos had the greatest percentage increase in calls in the Thompson-Okanagan, with 16 calls, a 167% increase compared to the year prior with just six calls but the rise is across region.

Kamloops increased to 883 calls from 613, Kelowna saw the fourth highest number of calls among cities in the province, a spike to 1,168 from 869 in 2019. Calls in Vernon increased to 316 from 247, according to the latest data.

Hussey said not only are there more calls, but they are more complex. With a toxic drug supply often cut with other agents, overdoses require multiple doses of Naloxone and the patient often has breathing and neurological complications.

Every health region across the province saw an increase in overdoses, but the Vancouver Coastal region saw a slight decrease in calls by four per cent. One area within the Vancouver region saw a 14 per cent decrease in calls – the Downtown Eastside. For the last few years, the Downtown Eastside community has averaged more than 5,000 overdose calls a year. In 2020 that number dropped to 4,574, from 5,335 in 2019.

The Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Valley regions continue to have the highest number of overdose calls as they include more than 50 per cent of the province’s population. Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria remain the top communities for overdose calls.

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