Difficult conversations about overdose crisis urged for Oceanside area

By Spencer Sterritt
February 9, 2018 - 7:14pm

A sign posted at a recent conversation open house about the overdose crisis in Oceanside.Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW

Dr. Paul Hasselback in front of a slide showing the drastic increase in overdose fatalities for the Oceanside region. Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — With one of the highest per capita rates of fatal overdoses in B.C., health care workers are urging families and communities to have real, productive conversations about the ongoing crisis.

Dr. Paul Hasselback said there were 37 fatal overdoses in the last decade, with roughly half of them in the last two years.

“For a non-urban centre here on the Island, the Oceanside area actually has one of the higher rates (of fatal overdoses),” he told a crowd of roughly 75 at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre on Thursday, Feb. 8.

Associate professor and scientist Dr. Bernie Pauly said it feels like a surreal nightmare every time new overdose numbers are released.

“I don't think in December 2015, I could have imagined by the end of 2016 the numbers would be at 1,000 and at the end of 2017 they'd be at 1,400.”

She said while it's a tough subject to bring up around the dinner table, there are many ways to successfully express any concerns.

“When you're talking to your teen, it's talking about making healthy choices. If you're talking to someone who you really love and care about who's actively using, that will be a different conversation: 'I really care about you, I want you to be safe, should we go get a naloxone kit?' The conversations are really quite different.”

Since news of the ongoing overdose crisis have flooded social media and the news, Pauly said people are now much more receptive to those type of conversations.

Building off those conversations is the key way for communities to grapple with the issue and come up with a plan to tackle it, Pauly said.

“Each community is unique and I think it's important to have them making their own decisions, in collaboration with Island Health, about what's going to be best.”

She expressed optimism about community voices being heard by recently announced community response teams, which are in 18 communities around B.C. to help curb the overdose crisis.

It's a conversation being closely monitored by the City of Parksville.

In August, Parksville council discussed and ultimately voted against introducing needle disposal services to the area in favour of City staff monitoring the situation over the next six months.

The six-month period ends shortly and a staff report is expected, though no timeline is yet in place to present again to Council.

At the time, Parksville mayor Marc Lefebvre told NanaimoNewsNOW the City doesn't have the supports and resources to properly handle facilities like an overdose prevention site or increased needle cleanup services.


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