The IHA is concerned by Penticton’s level of fatal overdoses due toopioid use. The Health Authority has been ramping up its outreach efforts, even implementing the Naloxone Challenge to train businesses and organizations how to administer the lifesaving drug, yet the death rate still increased this year. (File photo)

Interior Health finds Penticton’s fatal overdose rate ‘concerning’

The rate has been consistenly increasing since 2015

The Interior Health Authority has acknowledged that Penticton is one of the hardest hit communities in the region in relation to the opioid crisis, but says overall overdose prevention efforts are having an impact.

The B.C. Coroners Service recently released stats that showed 17 people fatally overdosed in Penticton between January and October 2019. This is an all-time high, more than the 16 overdose deaths reported in all of 2018, 14 in 2017 and seven in 2016.

The health authority said it is concerned the city’s rates are not trending downwards like other communities in the region.

READ MORE: City of Penticton records all-time high for fatal overdoses

“There are a number of complex issues underlying these numbers. A toxic drug supply continues to be the main factor,” stated a press release from the IHA.

“Substance use is an extremely complicated issue that affects the individual, their loved ones, and communities. We all have a part to play. We are an active partner alongside other community stakeholders in Penticton’s recently established local Community Action Team, which is exploring options to enhance overdose prevention services in Penticton.”

It goes on to highlight the ongoing initiatives that have been implemented throughout the province, including the Intensive Day Treatment Program operating out of Penticton, Vernon, Kamloops and Kelowna.

“The intensive day treatment program was established to remove barriers for those who recognize they need help but have busy lives – jobs with little flexibility, or family demands – that make facility-based treatment programs unappealing or impossible,” stated the release.

In addition, residents in Penticton have access to substance use connection services to support linkages from hospital to community services (within 24 hours) for people with substance use disorders.

IHA also said it is also seeing an increase in clients connected to opioid agonist treatment (OAT) such as methadone and Suboxone.

“One-hundred and twenty-nine clients filled a prescription for an OAT in February 2016, and as of August 2019 that was up to 255,” states the release.

Businesses and organizations in the city are also invited to partake in the IHA Naloxone Challenge to learn how to administer the lifesaving drug.

To sign up for the Naloxone Challenge call 250-462-1050.

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