After receiving an update on the Opioid crisis, Williams Lake city council and staff have decided to learn how to administer naloxone, the medication used to combat the effects of an overdose.
During a committee of the whole meeting held Tuesday evening, Jordan Davis, harm reduction co-ordinator with the Boys and Girls Club and Williams Lake RCMP Staff Sgt. Del Byron warned there are many overdoses occurring in Williams Lake.
“In this town alone, naloxone is being used a lot,” Byron told council. “Where we used to use one or two vials we are now using up to nine vials sometimes because there’s so much fentanyl in these people’s systems.”
If it wasn’t for naloxone in ambulances and hospitals saving people there would be more people dying, Byron added.
Davis said a youth from the Boys and Girls Club was lost to a drug overdose in December and there have been other drug-related deaths in the community, although at this point there are no current statistics surrounding those deaths.
When people arrive at the hospital’s emergency department because of an overdose, a urine test is done to see what drugs they were on so the drugs can be tracked.
“If someone says ‘I used heroine, I used ecstasy, I used MDMA,’ their drug sample comes back and 67 per cent of the drugs that were people were taking had fentanyl in them and they did not think they were taking fentanyl,” Davis explained. “This year it’s been 81 per cent already so it is rising.”
Davis said because there is so much fentanyl out there, it is showing up in many drugs used by recreational drug users who may have not overdosed in the past.
She also said weighing scales sent away by the RCMP for testing have come back showing there are traces of fentanyl so unless someone knows where marijuana is being grown, it could get tainted with fentanyl too.
Sharing statistics from 2017 for the entire province, Jordan said 82 per cent of drug overdose deaths were males, 88 per cent occurred inside, 58 per cent were in a private residence, 30 per cent were in some sort of other inside residence and only 11 per cent were outside.
“Often men in tough situations don’t have the support systems that women have, so then they drift off and do drugs,” Byron said.
In the First Nations population, Davis said, there are three times more likely to be fatalities caused by overdoses than other causes, and there are more women and youth victims dying from overdoses.
People are reluctant to call 911, Davis warned.
“That’s because people are terrified to have their children taken away if the RCMP find drugs in the house,” she said. “But if someone doesn’t get help in time, they are done.”
Byron said B.C. Ambulance’s policy now is not to call the police unless there is aggressive violence or threats of violence so people can be treated without having the police involved.
“The priority is to make sure that person gets the help they need,” he explained.
In May 2017, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act became law in Canada to provide immunity from simple possession charges for those who call 911 in the case of an overdose, Davis added.
City council asked Davis to come back to a future committee of the whole meeting to teach members how to administer naloxone and the city’s director of municipal services, Gary Muraca, said he has ordered kits for all the city’s vehicles in case his workers come in contact with fentanyl in the public washrooms.