Pictured here is a naloxone kit, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. (Lakes District News file photo)

Burns Lake health providers on guard amid drug overdose crisis

Drug overdoses have taken a heavy toll on British Columbians over the last year and have not left the Lakes District unscathed.

For September, the last month that data was made available, 128 people province-wide died of illicit drug overdoses, and 1,143 died in 2018, according to data from the BC Coroners Service.

READ MORE: B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

In the northern B.C. context, deaths from illicit drug overdoses have increased each year since 2009, and 60 people died this year until September.

Prince George was the seventh highest township (out of 16) in the province for deaths by overdose in 2018, with 30 deaths.

Many drug overdoses involve opioid painkillers like the particularly powerful and dangerous drug fentanyl.

RELATED: Interlakes mom mourns son after fentanyl overdose

Unlike the Coroners Service report, which covers overdoses of all drugs, Northern Health has compiled data specifically on opioid overdoses in northern B.C.

In its “Public ED Enhanced Surveillance” report released in September, the service tracked opioid overdose incidents that resulted in visits to emergency departments (EDs), such as hospital emergency rooms.

The report focussed on the period since June 13, 2016 and was concerned only with the 1,135 overdoses in that time.

The overdoses did not necessarily cause death.

In the north there have been an average of 10 overdose-related emergency department visits per week since January 2017.

Almost 30 visits happened in one week at the end of July of last year.

In an overview of the northern region from Prince George to Prince Rupert, less than 15 emergency visits in Burns Lake were noted in the last two years, and less than five this year.

Burns Lake had the least amount of visits of all the towns in this area including Vanderhoof, Fort St.James, Smithers and Hazelton.

Prince George, on the other hand, with its much higher population had hundreds of emergency visits in that period.

Despite the lower population of the Lakes District and the apparently less severe state of drug use compared to other parts of the province, health authorities here are still prepared.

Dozens of kits containing Naloxone, a medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses, have been distributed to local healthcare providers such as the hospital in Burns Lake and the Grand Isle and Southside Health Centres.

“[The kits are] handed out there and there’s a supply there. They’re also easy to order,” Marie Hunter, Health Services Administrator with Northern Health told Lakes District News.

“All the staff who deal with the public have been trained in harm reduction,” she said.

The Southside Health & Wellness Centre currently has about 15 naloxone kits on hand and has had them available since late 2016, said the centre’s manager Aileen Serle.

A Burns Lake health care worker said there has been moderate interest in the naloxone kits.

“Sometimes it’s just family members coming in because they think someone has a problem,” the worker said.

“Sometimes in a small community they don’t want to admit that they need them. As far as confidentiality it’s hard in a small community because we all know each other.”

Just Posted

Village studies retail pot store rules

The Village of Burns Lake is examining its approach to retail cannabis… Continue reading

‘It affects everybody:’ Trudeau’s brownface photos worry Wet’suwet’en chief

Skeena-Bulkley Valley Liberal candidate declines to comment on prime minister’s indiscretion

Village might earn $384,000 in camp deal

The Village of Burns Lake is set to receive hundreds of thousands… Continue reading

Helping the Burns Lake community for 13 years

In its 13 years of existence, the Burns Lake and District Community… Continue reading

VIDEO: A moment to remember during the World Lacrosse Men’s Indoor Championship in B.C.

Diego Hernandez Valenzuela’s team lost, but he felt like a winner Saturday

B.C. VIEWS: School officials join fact-free ‘climate strike’

Students, public get distorted picture of greenhouse gases

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Iconic 90s TV show ‘Friends’ celebrates 25th anniversary

The iconic, decade-long television show aired its first episode 25 years ago today

Police arrest B.C. phone scammer linked to illegal call centres in India

Person arrested in Burnaby here on a work visa, says police

Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for change

Man from Winnipeg who was hiking alone found dead in Banff National Park

RCMP say the man was hiking alone on Mount Temple Thursday

Most Read