Ten safe needle disposal boxes have been installed in Williams Lake’s downtown by the Canadian Mental Health Association Cariboo Chilcotin Branch including this one by the parkade across from the Elks Hall. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Ten safe needle disposal boxes have been installed in Williams Lake’s downtown by the Canadian Mental Health Association Cariboo Chilcotin Branch including this one by the parkade across from the Elks Hall. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Williams Lake drug overdoses triple in September

Total overdose call volume has already surpassed the last few years

Drug overdose calls spiked in the month of September in Williams Lake.

Shannon Miller, communications spokesperson with Emergency Health Services B.C., said Williams Lake normally averages six to seven overdose calls a month and in September there were 19.

As of Monday, Oct. 26 there were 14 overdose calls.

“The community’s total call volume has already surpassed the last few years’ call totals,” she told the Tribune.

In 2020 to date there have been 91 overdose calls compared to 78 in 2019, 72 in 2018 and 52 in 2017.

In an effort to be proactive, the Boys and Girls Club of Williams Lake and District and Canadian Mental Health Association Cariboo Chilcotin Branch have ordered fentanyl drug checking strips for public use.

Boys and Girls Club harm reduction co-ordinator Laurel White said in addition to the strips, she has plenty of supplies such as clean needle kits and Naloxone.

“People can take strips home once they learn how to use them,” she added, noting she has been working with the local Community Action Team (CAT) to address local substance use problems in Williams Lake.

Read more: THIS IS OUR HOMETOWN: Laurel White of Central Cariboo Search and Rescue

Janice Breck, executive director of CMHA, said her organization installed safe needle disposal boxes in April of this year including near the Salvation Army, library parking lot, CMHA, wood sign at the skate park, Boitanio Park bus loop, Cariboo Friendship Society, bottom entrance to the downtown underground parking off Second Avenue North and mail boxes on Second Avenue.

CMHA is responsible for cleaning out the boxes, while the City is responsible for any discarded needles that are found anywhere else.

White believes a safe consumption site would be extremely helpful in Williams Lake.

“A lot of people are going down with overdoses when they are using drugs alone,” she added.

She said she also worries about alcohol abuse and said it becomes more problematic with dropping temperatures in winter.

“People might be warm on the inside because of the alcohol, but freezing on the outside and if they are out in the elements it becomes a huge risk.”

Read more: First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

“The boxes have only been cleaned out once in six months so maybe we need to advertise them more,” Breck said.



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An unused needle lies among other debris in a make-shift camping area behind Carson Drive in early October. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

An unused needle lies among other debris in a make-shift camping area behind Carson Drive in early October. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)