Given the spike in illicit drug overdose deaths across the province, including in rural areas, the Burns Lake detachment of the RCMP is now prepared to prevent overdoses from becoming fatal.
Since mid-November 2016, the Burns Lake detachment has had naloxone kits – a medication that reverses the effects of an overdose from opioids – at their disposal.
According to staff sergeant Charlotte Peters, all members of the Burns Lake RCMP have received training on how to use naloxone and are ready to use it whenever necessary.
“It has not been used yet, but we all have it,” she said.
The potent synthetic drug fentanyl has been detected in about half of overdose cases reported in B.C. Although no fentanyl-related overdose deaths have been reported in Burns Lake, one death was reported in Smithers in early November.
Both the Smithers Fire Department and the Burns Lake Fire Department have also considered using naloxone kits. However, the Burns Lake Fire Department opted not to use it.
“The Burns Lake Fire Department has discussed [using] the naloxone kits; however, unlike Smithers, we are not a first responder department,” explained Burns Lake fire chief Rob Krause. “What this means is that the Burns Lake Fire Department does not respond to all medical emergencies in the community with the B.C. Ambulance Service, and they do carry the kits; as they will always arrive before we do, the department has decided that we do not need to carry the kits at this time.”
“We may revisit this issue in the new year if the situation changes,” he added.
Cold weather has meant more B.C. illicit drug users overdose alone at home, in public washroom stalls or on deserted streets, pushing B.C.’s highest-ever drug death total to new heights.
The isolation of drug users, and the likely introduction of even more lethal synthetic opioids into the street drug supply, contributed to 128 B.C. overdose deaths in November, provincial health officials said last week. That brings the total deaths in B.C. to 755 for the year, up 70 per cent from last year, with little relief in sight for December.
“We are seeing people die with a naloxone kit open beside then, and they haven’t had time to use it,” said Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s Chief Coroner.
In a statement, provincial officials said 300 drug treatment beds have been opened and another 100 coming in the next month and the goal of 500 reached by the end of March.
Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall said there is too much emphasis on treatment beds, when what is needed is a “continuum of services” to keep drug addicts from relapsing and move them to alternatives such as methadone.
– With files from Tom Fletcher