Frequent overdoses in Campbell River and on the North Island are prompting calls for safer access to drugs and better living conditions for those living in poverty.
Those are some of the messages that came out of the International Overdose Awareness Day event at Spirit Square last Friday.
Leanne Wingert, a positive wellness counsellor with the local AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI) office, said that overdoses likely happen every day in Campbell River.
“There’s probably minimum one overdose [per day],” she said. “Depending on the time of the month, there could be four, five, six, seven.”
She said the majority of overdoses happen in the home.
The AVI office in downtown Campbell River includes an overdose prevention room, which is meant to allow for safer drug use and rapid responses in case of an overdose.
“We often witness and tend to overdoses in our office, but also witness and tend to overdoses on the street in the downtown core,” she said.
Sarah Sullivan, AVI manager for Courtenay and Campbell River, said the government needs to make safe drugs available to avoid more deaths.
“The drugs that are available on the illicit drug market are poisoned and people are dying,” she said.
“It’s not that more people are using drugs than, say, five years ago. It’s that the drugs that they’re using are killing them because they’re contaminated.”
Griffin Russell, regional harm reduction coordinator at Island Health, said that people in places like the North Island use drugs because of a host of factors, including poverty and the lack of access to affordable housing.
“All of those play a significant factor in how people engage in their community and how they engage in their own health,” said Russell.
“There needs to be focus beyond just the substance use to create healthy contexts for people to live within.”
The use of a Naloxone kit can potentially save the life of someone experiencing an overdose.
The kits are available from Island Health, AVI, the local hospital and medical clinics. They are also distributed by Kwakiutl District Council Health.
More information is available at towardtheheart.com/naloxone.