Interior Health is encouraging South Cariboo residents to spread the word about its episodic overdose prevention site to help prevent overdoses in the community.
Dr. Carol Fenton said the site, which operates out of the South Cariboo Health Centre, has been in place for the past 18 months but is not seeing a lot of visits from opioid users. The site offers a “comfortable, clinical space” for people looking for medication-assisted treatment and safer alternatives to the toxic illicit drug supply. A nurse prescriber is on-site Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“Clearly we need to do a better job of spreading the message so people know the service is available,” Fenton said. “We know there is a population that could use the service.”
The prevention site is one of 16 across the province and was put in place to reduce harm related to the opioid crisis. Although there haven’t been any overdoses in the South Cariboo so far this year, in 2021, there were six overdose deaths, according to Interior Health, numbers in line with the rest of the province.
Many of those deaths were related to “high and unpredictable concentrations of fentanyl” in the drug supply, Fenton said, as well as other drug contaminants, which makes it more difficult to reverse an overdose. She noted new and recreational drug users are vulnerable to overdoses, but chronic users are also at risk.
“There are very valid reasons people use drugs. The most efficient and guaranteed way of keeping them alive is having the episodic overdose prevention site,” Fenton said. “The most important thing we can do is have empathy for people so they can gain access.
“Nobody ever died from supervised consumption.”
Once people start using the site, she added, they will gain access to other health services that will also help them reduce harm.