By MEL ROTHENBURGER
Director, Electoral Area P, TNRD
A stark reality about the opioid crisis was brought home to regional politicians today (Nov. 24, 2017) — even lives that are saved are often ruined.
Dave Harrhy and Rae Samson of the Interior Heath mental health and substance use department appeared before the board with an update on the battle against overdose deaths.
Electoral area Director Ken Gillis raised a troubling aspect of the opioid problem when he asked Harrhy and Samson whether it’s true that overdose victims who are administered Naloxone often suffer brain damage.
Naloxone is often injected into drug users to reverse the seizures brought on by overdose.
“What percentage of them can we expect to support forever and ever?” he asked.
Samson didn’t have numbers but acknowledged that some do suffer permanent brain injury.
“It’s a very complicated issue in that that’s the tool for saving lives,” she said of Naloxone. “There are definitely complications; it’s not a cure-all by any means.”
Gillis assured her he wasn’t’ suggesting people should be allowed to die “so they’re not a burden on the health system.”
At another point during the presentation, City of Kamloops Director Pat Wallace challenged the delegation on the cost of mobile consumption sites, saying her council was promised they wouldn’t be an expense to the City. She asked if the City could submit monthly invoices for the costs to taxpayers of police and bylaws officers who have to attend the sites.
“We are delivering exactly what we promised to deliver,” Samson insisted. “We have honoured that to the letter.”
“I don’t mean to be argumentative,” Wallace replied, but “We were told, ‘there won’t be a cost to you.’”
Samson and Harrhy said the largest number of overdose deaths in Interior Health occur in Kelowna, then Kamloops, followed by Vernon and Penticton. Deaths this year are projected to double over 2016.
Samson said fentanyl is detected in 80 percent of overdoses, and that they occur in both regular and occasional drug users.
Harrhy added, “The reality is that people are using right across society and people are dying right across society.”
One of the greatest challenges is to convince people to stop using the drugs when they’re alone, he said.