Throughout our province communities continue to face the realities of the opiate overdose epidemic. With over 600 fatalities this year alone and thousands of non-fatal overdoses being reported, all of us are being impacted by this public health emergency.
ASK Wellness Society operates in the communities of Kamloops and Merritt. We provide outreach services, over 200 housing units, and a wide range of health and employment services to some of the most marginalized people in these communities. Our goal through the network of programs we call Streets-Homes-Health-Employment is to help people reach their potential and gain their dignity. As part of this strategy we offer harm reduction supplies, health education, and direct street outreach services to try to engage people where they are at when they need it. In the face of this public health emergency we have been on the front lines of this battle to save lives whether they are recreational substance users or living with a chronic and debilitating addiction.
This year alone, with the use of the lifesaving medication Naloxone, we have revived over 40 people facing death by overdose in the community of Kamloops. Often these individuals are not aware they are dying and it is only through someone nearby that our staff have been able to respond and administer the reversal medication. Our staff have been on constant guard this past year hoping to attend in time to save someone’s life and for many on the front lines this pressure has taken a toll.
In response to this ongoing crisis right here in our community, Interior Health Authority and the Ministry of Health have offered to provide our organization with more resources and flexibility to continue our efforts to prevent further fatalities among the most at risk populations in Kamloops. Starting this week we will be increasing our capacity to respond to overdoses and engage individuals who access harm reduction materials to consider alternatives such as substance abuse treatment, Suboxone, Methodose, and other health services. We will be providing these services in and around both our North Shore and South Shore locations where we distribute harm reduction supplies. We know from experience and from the data collected that these are the locations where we have seen the highest incidence of overdose in the community and we feel compelled to respond further to save people’s lives.
Health workers will try to ensure that those accessing these supplies will not consume substances alone and are aware of the risks they are facing. These workers will also work with local businesses and neighbours to respond to issues of discarded needles and the impacts of homelessness in an effort to minimize the impacts that this public health epidemic has caused to public safety and the associated social disorder. We will not be sanctioning nor supervising the consumption of these substances in these locations but will instead work to prevent fatal and non-fatal overdoses through the administration of Naloxone and continued education and engagement with this population.
The opportunity to work with Interior Health and our community stakeholders with these additional resources through the Overdose Prevention Sites are intended to increase our current response and strategies in the face of this epidemic. In partnership, we hope we can turn the tide of fatalities our community has been facing.
ASK understands the negative impact that has been experienced by businesses and the general public with respect to substance abuse on our streets, however, ASK also recognizes that it would be failing to meet its mandate by ignoring the need to save the lives that are being lost due to this overdose crisis.
For more information and interest in the delivery of these services in Kamloops please contact Bob Hughes, Executive Director, ASK Wellness Society at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250 376 7558 ex 223.