Penticton town hall meeting called to talk about rise in drug overdoses

Right now, hearing of an overdose in the Penticton area is an every day occurrence at Pathways Addictions Resource Centre.

Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth of the Penticton RCMP holds a syringe as emergency workers put a 33-year-old drug overdose victim on a stretcher at a Government Street house Thursday morning. The overdose was one of two in three hours believed to be related to the drug fentanyl.

Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth of the Penticton RCMP holds a syringe as emergency workers put a 33-year-old drug overdose victim on a stretcher at a Government Street house Thursday morning. The overdose was one of two in three hours believed to be related to the drug fentanyl.

Right now, hearing of an overdose in the Penticton area is an every day occurrence at Pathways Addictions Resource Centre.

Every week there is word of an overdose death.

“We have clients who are passing away, the staff here are dealing with it on a daily basis. It does take its toll. It’s taking its toll on staff here, I’m sure it must be taking its toll on RCMP, the fire department, any sort of first responder, BC Ambulance, I’m sure it must be taking its toll on those people as well,” said Daryl Meyers, agency director at Pathways Addictions Resource Centre,

Read more: Parent of Penticton overdose victim: ‘Our kids are being wiped out’

The overdose epidemic gripping Penticton and the rest of B.C. is also facing the ever-present layer of stigma associated with drug users.

A town hall meeting at Okanagan College Penticton Campus tonight, Dec. 7, is tackling an epidemic of overdoses in Penticton and providing information to the public on the crisis.

Meyers hopes the information session will have some attendees walking away with a better understanding of the situation and some ways to help.

“If this many people were dying from anything else, people would be standing up and really taking notice,” said Meyers. “If this was measles, people would be beside themselves trying to figure out what to do.”

An expert panel is set to provide information and education to the public on the crisis, what is being done and what people can do to assist. The panel consists of BC Ambulance, the Penticton Fire Department, the regional harm reduction co-ordinator for Penticton, a medical health officer from Interior Health, a pharmacist, two addiction and emergency room doctors, a clinical counsellor and an outreach worker.

Read more: Fentanyl crises in Penticton as overdose numbers spike

The session is free, open to the public and takes place at 7 p.m. at Okanagan College Penticton campus, room PL 107.

“I know that Pathways has been dealing with an alarming increase of people calling in just wanting to know what they can do. Especially parents with children, people are just very, very concerned,” Meyers said. “We thought it would be a really great opportunity to have an educational session.”

Questions can be submitted to be answered by the panel.

“We just want to have a conversation, to help people understand more about what’s going on and what’s being done in the community,” Meyers said.

It can be a difficult conversation to have, Meyers said, one which has been taking place on the front lines at Pathways.

“We have a whole bunch of people who know pretty much what’s going on, who are on the ground every day and are hearing about things, but then we have some other people who don’t really know the impact that it’s having on our community,” Meyers said.

The spike in overdoses is staggering, and Meyers notes the full scope of the crisis is not necessarily being seen in the public eye.

“There are certain (overdoses) that are going through the hospital that are being reported, but there’s other overdoses where people are being revived that are not being reported through the hospital,” Meyers said.

She hopes those in attendance will walk away with some more empathy for those in the centre of the overdose crisis. It’s not just regular, daily users who are in crosshairs, recreational drug users are at risk as well, Meyers noted.

“I know that a lot of people, they think that people who are addicted to substances, they brought it on themselves,” Meyers said. “I hope that it will draw more empathy to the whole situation. It’s not anybody’s fault, no one is to blame. You just have to have some compassion and empathy for people who are going through this.”