The opioid crisis continues to affect communities large and small around the province. In April, for example, paramedics responded to record 138 calls in one day.
It has been five years since the province declared a public health emergency over opioids, but the problem continues as more than 7,000 people have died in the province. In 2020, the 1,724 deaths marked the worst year yet.
Cumberland and the Comox Valley are not immune, and in response, the Village of Cumberland has partnered with AVI Health and Community Services to offer a free overdose prevention workshop on May 13.
The workshop includes information such as how to recognize an overdose from both opioids and stimulants, proper disposal of sharps and hands-on Naloxone training — the most effective way to save a life in the case of an opioid overdose. Everyone will will learn the broad strokes of harm reduction principles and will receive a free Naloxone kit for their home or workplace.
“B.C. accounts for one third of Canada’s opioid overdoses,” says Kayla Funk, the health promotion educator with AVI Health and Community Services in Courtenay. “In the first two months of 2021 alone, more than 300 people died from drug overdose or drug toxicity in B.C., and the Comox Valley is not exempt from that heartbreak and devastation.”
Funk notes that, contrary to some mis-perceptions, overdoses can happen to anyone who uses, not just those with substance use disorders.
“It’s the weekend partier, it’s the person using prescription opioids for their chronic pain, and it’s the individual who’s using for the first time or the thousandth time. Fentanyl and its analogs have been found in every drug, from heroin and crystal meth to cocaine and pressed pills, and the drug supply is becoming more and more toxic. Education is crucial for prevention, and knowing how to use Naloxone could prevent your friend, your sibling or your colleague from becoming another life lost to the opioid crisis.”
On April 12, Cumberland council talked about the issue, including Coun. Jesse Ketler, who spoke about her step-brother’s death a couple of years ago. They unanimously passed a resolution calling on the federal government to treat the drug overdose and toxicity crisis as a public health emergency.
“Workshops like these are so valuable because, whether we like it or not, drugs are in our community and people are using them,” says Mayor Leslie Baird. “We don’t always know when we’re going to be placed in a position in which we have the power to save a life. What we do know is that, by the time you’re in that situation, it’s too late to learn what to do.”
The overdose prevention workshop is being held at the Cumberland Cultural Centre on Thursday, May 13 from 7 to 8 p.m. Though the workshop is free, participants must register in advance with Cumberland Recreation. Create an ActiveNet account at Cumberland.ca/recprograms and search course code “6158”or search “overdose to find the program. You can also call Cumberland Recreation for assistance at 250-336-2231.