Why West Kelowna and Penticton are never mentioned in overdose numbers - InfoNews

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Why West Kelowna and Penticton are never mentioned in overdose numbers

FILE PHOTO - A prescription pill bottle containing oxycodone and acetaminophen is seen on June 20, 2012.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
October 18, 2017 - 7:30 PM

OKANAGAN - This is a short list you really don’t want to make.

Both West Kelowna and Penticton didn’t rate a mention in the latest B.C. Coroners Service Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths report despite being similar in size to Vernon, which did make the list.

All three cities, as well as Kelowna, are within the Okanagan health service area, a sub-region of the Interior Health Authority, which has reported 113 overdose deaths to the end of August.

Kelowna reported 60 deaths while Vernon reported 16 leaving 37 overdose deaths in the rest of the health region. The report does not list the number of overdoses where the person did not die.

Andy Watson, strategic communications manager with the coroners service says only towns that meet a certain threshold of overdoses and overdose deaths per month are included because of privacy concerns.

“For protection of privacy reasons and variability in small numbers, only townships with five or more cases per month are included for the individual township monthly count,” he said.

Vernon and West Kelowna both have populations of around 33,000, although overdoses and deaths on the Westbank First Nation reserves are recorded as occurring in West Kelowna, Watson said. Almost 9,000 people, including approximately 700 band members live on reserve land.

Despite the lower numbers, neither West Kelowna nor Penticton have escaped the impact of the opioid crisis that has swept the province.

Communications officer Lesley Coates says the health authority has completed a community overdose profile for Kelowna at the request of its board of directors but has not done a profile for other smaller communities.

“While we can’t release the West Kelowna numbers, I can say that we have seen an increase there as well in 2017, similar to other parts of the Okanagan,” Coates said.

For more on the opioid crisis go here.


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