Health official optimistic as more Nanaimo drug users receive treatment

By Spencer Sterritt
August 17, 2018 - 4:30pm

By the end of June, 2018, 16 people had lost their life to a fatal overdose in Nanaimo.Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

NANAIMO — Amid an ongoing overdose crisis in Nanaimo, more people are seeking the help they need.

Island Health statistics show 790 people are currently in some form of treatment for opiate addiction. It's a 45 per cent increase from 2015, which was a year before the province declared a public health emergency over the increasing number of fatal overdoses.

Medical health officer Dr. Paul Hasselback told NanaimoNewsNOW the number of those in treatment is going up across the province, but it's rising faster in Nanaimo by roughly 15 per cent.

“I think accessibility to the treatment has improved dramatically,” Hasselback said. “Certainly because of the devastation this overdose crisis has had in Nanaimo, there's been an intensive level of intervention, support...and public acknowledgment that we have a crisis here. I do think all of that helps develop a community that embraces the challenge and recognizes that family, friends and neighbours may have substance abuse issues.”

Due to increased awareness, Hasselback said there's also a significant amount of naloxone kits in the community which can help save a life to prevent a fatal overdose.

“We should be celebrating in Nanaimo to some extent, but we still have a long way to go,” he said.

The number of fatal overdoses by the end of June 2018 are down significantly from June 2017, 16 compared to 24, according to data from the BC Coroners Service.

This puts Nanaimo around the same rate of fatal overdoses compared to 2016, when the crisis was officially declared. While local numbers have decreased, the rate of overdoses has increased in other parts of the mid-island.

The number of fatal overdoses per year is still roughly five-times higher than it was before 2013 and the mass introduction of fentanyl into the drug supply.

Fifty-two people lost their lives in all of 2017 to a fatal overdose in Nanaimo.


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