B.C. paramedics teach Lake Country community members how to properly use a Naloxone kit. (David Venn).

B.C.’s opioid crisis: From a mother’s loss to a community’s education

Lake Country has the Okanagan’s newest Community Overdose Response Education program (CORE)

As the sun rolls through the valley and glazes over Kelowna to give residents the first hint of summer, a woman sits at the cement picnic table across from the downtown marina at the harbour front.

City Park is crowded with people who are enjoying the warm weather on Sunday afternoon.

However, for the woman seated at the table, the day doesn’t have that same shine as it does for others.

“I used to have a son in his mid-twenties. He died,” she said, seemingly unfazed. “From an overdose.”

The Kelowna resident scrambles through her purse and opens a tangy-orange pill bottle; it’s filled with labelled spliffs (marked for indica or sativa).

She lights one up and takes a drag, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

READ MORE: B.C. has been the hardest hit by opioid-linked deaths in the past two years

The woman doesn’t wish to be named but instead wants for others to be informed about the issues surrounding mental health and addiction.

On the Tuesday following Mother’s Day, information boards, Naxolone kits, artwork, a collage of lost loved ones, a candlelight vigil and the white cadence of a ukulele lined the George Elliot Secondary auditorium for an event held by Lake Country Health Planning Society’s (LCHPS) new program, Community Overdose Response and Education (CORE).

Katherine Anger, a registered massage therapist, said she found value in attending the event.

“I’m in the health care profession and I think it’s important that we all have knowledge about what’s going on today and [with] society,” she said. “I’m really ignorant to all of it, so it is a learning experience for me.”

Anger participated in a Naloxone training station even though she stated she has never encountered a person who experiences problems with substance abuse.

“It was very easy to sit through the training,” she said, pondering when she will actually use the kit. “I don’t know what type of environment I’m going to find [an overdose incident] because I’m being told it’s in so many different areas in life right now. It isn’t defined just as the backstreet alley or downtown location.”

“[It is] 100 per cent positive that they are doing these type of small venues and small events because it brings people into it,” said Anger about CORE’s event.

The CORE program began in Sept. 2018 when LCHPS received a $75,000 grant from the Community Action Initiative.

The program has three goals, according to harm reduction outreach coordinator Craig Renfrew.

First to educate the public and explain what they can do to help someone else or themselves.

Second is to go into the community and meet with people who are experiencing problems with substance use and help guide them to the available resources.

“We’ll help them basically do whatever they feel that they need to do,” said Renfrew.

He said the program has had positive feed back during CORE’s first week of implementation, but it is too early to tell how to better optimize the program.

READ MORE: New opioid addiction treatment available in Kelowna

The final goal is putting on events and engaging the community.

In 2013, there were 333 deaths attributed to an illicit drug overdose in B.C., according to the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. In 2018, there were 1,380 deaths related to drug overdose in the province.


David Venn
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
Email me at david.venn@kelownacapnews.com
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Lynne Blake, vice-president of the Lake Country Health Planning Society (left) and Darlene Taylor, assistant professor at UBC (right) set up the candlelight vigil on Tuesday, May 14 to honour the lives that have been lost to substance abuse. (David Venn).

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