AS WE SUFFER through wildfire smoke, and step closer to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, health and all that it entails is more important than ever.
Interior Health Authority (IHA) is primarily responsible for healthcare services in our region. But locally, the City of Kamloops also plays a part, through its partnership with IHA.
For years, the City of Kamloops has partnered with IHA to deliver health programs, especially at the Tournament Capital Centre (TCC). There have been programs to counteract the effects of cardiovascular, metabolic disease, mental health, chronic disease self management, orthopaedic, cancer, and respiratory issues.
For example, the Vascular Improvement Program was a six-month program that included using the TCC track, and strength training. Programs for COPD and other respiratory conditions includes exercise and breathing exercises.
The programs provide both prevention, such as lowering blood pressure or reducing weight, and recovery, such as restoring strength.
Not only did the people who participated in the IHA/TCC programs had a chance for exercise, they also had a chance to connect with others in the community. Feeling connected improves health.
Even with COVID-19 restrictions, the IHA/TCC has continued to provide virtual cardiac rehab, pulmonary rehabilitation and on-track programs.
The IHA/TCC programs are laid out in every City of Kamloops Activity Guide. But there is one thing missing: programs for people with drug dependencies.
All through the COVID-19 crisis, the drug overdose crisis has continued. In British Columbia, illicit drug overdoses are one of the top 10 causes of death. In May 2021, there were 160 deaths by overdose in B.C. May was the 16th straight month of more than 100 deaths in B.C. by drug overdose. In Kamloops in 2020, there were 60 deaths by overdose.
Deaths by drug overdose are a major health crisis in B.C. Other top 10 causes of death include cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and diabetes. Yet, while IHA/TCC have health programs for people recovering from or living with cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and diabetes, there are no IHA/TCC programs for people using illicit drugs.
Drug users are people we know. They are our coworkers, friends and relatives. They are our neighbor’s child. Our old classmate. People dying of drug overdoses are people we loved and cared for.
Health care to counter the harms of drug use is as important as any other type of health care. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise can have “an effective and persistent treatment” for people with substance use issues. Exercise benefits people with drug dependencies just as it benefits someone with diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
Exercise is not the entire solution for those with drug dependencies, but that is the case for other health conditions as well. But study after study has shown that exercise can increase abstinence or decrease in drug usage.
The TCC is currently a COVID-19 vaccine clinic, but one day soon, it will be opened up for in-person IHA/TCC programs again. There will be groups of people having their blood pressure tested, doing laps on the track and lifting weights.
The nurses and physiotherapists will be handing out useful information to the participants. There will be people there because of cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and diabetes. Community members will give each other support in their health journey.
People who go the IHA/TCC programs have many different health concerns. But they share a common bond that healthy changes to one’s life can lead to long term improved health. It’s time there are programs for people with drug dependencies at the TCC as well.
IHA and the City of Kamloops should offer that same opportunity to people with drug dependencies as with other serious health issues. People with drug dependencies are as at as much risk, and deserve the same chance for a healthier future.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.