Last year there were 283 overdose deaths recorded in the Interior Health region. The highest yearly total yet.
To prevent more of these tragic and preventable deaths, the province has developed a new way for health-care staff to safely support people who require overdose prevention services. These services include having health-care staff observe drug consumption in a private and hygienic setting; monitoring and responding if there is an overdose; providing harm reduction such as Take Home Naloxone kits; and making connections to other health-care services.
These overdose prevention services are now being provided on an as-needed basis at several sites including Lillooet Hospital; 100 Mile District Hospital; the Penticton Downtown Mental Health and Substance Use office (formerly the Martin Street Outreach Clinic); Rocky Mountain Lodge (location of Cranbrook Mental Health and Substance Use); and the Sparwood Health Centre.
“While we are not establishing permanent overdose prevention services in these facilities, this is an important step to help staff respond to urgent overdose prevention needs in locations that have seen increases in overdoses and overdose deaths. These are smaller communities with otherwise limited resources,” says Interior Health Mental Health and Substance Use Practice Lead Andrew Kerr. “We know these are life-saving services. Research shows the combined response of providing access to Take Home Naloxone, Opioid Agonist Treatment (medication such as methadone and Suboxone) and overdose prevention services have been effective in averting many overdose deaths in B.C.”
In Penticton, these services have been available since this spring at the downtown Mental Health and Substance Use location.
“I love this part of my job,” says Penticton Overdose Prevention Nurse Amanda Perrey. “I appreciate the ability to provide my clients with a service that’s so necessary, in a space that is free from judgement. I love building relationships with clients, and getting to a point where I can talk to them about available treatments and services in a manner and at a pace that works for them.”
In a field that relies heavily on relationships and word of mouth, the new overdose prevention service is building momentum. Since these services became available in Penticton, Amanda has had three visits from people hoping to use their drugs more safely.
“One was a gentleman new to Penticton, who came looking for harm reduction supplies. I explained our services and he came in and utilized the whole gamut – he had me test his drugs, he used his substance safely, we did some vein care and I gave him some safer injection education, he took a Naloxone kit, and I helped him download the LifeGuard app onto this cell phone. He opened up and talked a lot about his substance use, his relationships, his relapse, and the impact on his work. I was really happy when he came back two days later.”
“This program is evidence-based and I’ve personally witnessed people who have a mistrust or even fear of the health-care system access our services and they benefit from it – they’re able to start developing trust in the system, and make the changes that they want to make.”
To learn more, check out this short video or visit overdose emergency for information about overdose prevention services in Interior Health. To find out how to access these services in Lillooet, 100 Mile House, Penticton, Cranbrook and Sparwood, call 310-MHSU.