Calls for potential overdoses in B.C. spiked in 2020, especially in the Okanagan - Shuswap. Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. (BCHES photo)

Calls for potential overdoses in B.C. spiked in 2020, especially in the Okanagan - Shuswap. Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. (BCHES photo)

UBCO program increases drug checking availability in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon

January 2021 data shows of 95 opioid samples tested across Interior Health, 93 contained fentanyl

Due to a new drug-checking service provided by UBC Okanagan, the number of opioids being tested in the Interior Health region increased significantly in January.

Drug checking is a harm-reduction service that allows people to check what’s in their drugs before using.

With the support of Interior Health, UBCO Campus Health’s Harm Reduction Team (HaRT) now provides confidential drug-checking services using a Fourier Transformed Infrared Spectroscopy Analysis (FTIR) machine. Before January, the nearest FTIR machine to the Okanagan was in Kamloops.

The machine allows technicians to find the various components of the provided samples for anything present in a concentration of five per cent or greater. Test strips, which can detect fentanyl and benzodiazepines at lower concentrations, are used in conjunction with the machine for more accurate results.

READ MORE: Overdose calls spike in 2020 across the Okanagan – Shuswap

READ MORE: Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

January 2021 numbers, from the BC Centre on substance use show of 95 opioid samples tested across Interior Health, 93 contained fentanyl. Data also shows an upward trend of opioids testing positive for benzodiazepine, from almost 23 per cent in December to 38 in January. Interior Health issued eight drug checking alerts in January — five in Kamloops, two in Vernon and one in Penticton — for drugs adulterated with benzodiazepine and synthetic cannabinoids.

The executive director of Kelowna’s Living Positive Resource Centre, Fahmy Baharuddin, said drug checking is important now more than ever. He said between the province not yet finding a way to decriminalize substance use and the COVID-19 pandemic causing people to cut corners, fentanyl has seen a dramatic increase in the drug supply.

READ MORE: Federal government provides $15 million for safer drug pilot programs in B.C.

HaRT will be doing on-site drug checking in Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton every week at the following times:

Tuesdays – Vernon

  • 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Vernon Downtown Mental Health & Substance Use (3306A 32nd Ave). Contact Mental Health & Substance Use (250-503-3737) to drop off samples outside of HaRT hours.

Wednesdays – Kelowna

  • 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. UBCO Campus, Room 336 UNC
  • 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Living Positive Resource Centre (255 Lawrence Ave.). Contact Living Positive Resource Centre (778-753-5830 or info@lprc.ca) to drop off samples outside of HaRT hours.

Saturdays – Penticton

  • 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p..m. The Centre, in the Cannery Building (1475 Fairview Rd.). Samples can be dropped off at Burdock House (594 Winnipeg Street, 236-422-1601) throughout the week.

Information on how to package samples for after-hours drop-off is available on UBCO’s Campus Health webpage and HaRT available by phone and text at 250-864-1431.

HaRT also offers naloxone training and distribution, take-home fentanyl test strips, sterile supplies, education and referrals to support services.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


@michaelrdrguez
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

opioid crisis

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Machinery could be seen working to clear land behind a pair of houses on Main Street for the future site of the Shuswap and Secwepmc Healing Centre, a medical facility on Friday, April 9. The Sicamous Fire Department has been using the buildings for training exercises ahead of their demolition. (Jim Elliot/Eagle Valley News)
Snapshot: Clearing space

Land is being cleared for a new medical centre on Sicamous’ Main Street.

Winter driving conditions returned to the Coquihalla Highway on April 10. (ICBC image)
Coquihalla motorists warned of fresh snow

Five to 10 cm of snow is expected today for the mountain highway.

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

School District 83 trustees are leaning towards an option in the school district’s Long Range Facilities Plan that favours making Salmon Arm Secondary’s Sullivan campus and Jackson campus (pictured) both Grade 9-12 schools. (Google maps image)
Letter: Two high school option for Salmon Arm will create ‘have, have not’ situation

Writer concerned with E5 option, says transparent talk about implications needed

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.[CDC]
More COVID-19 exposures reported at schools in Kelowna

Interior Health added additional schools and dates to their list of exposures

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Sun Peaks is tracking rising COVID-19 cases. (Kamloops This Week Photo)
Sun Peaks sees spike in COVID-19 cases at end of ski season

On April 9, there were 15 positive cases confirmed.

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Most Read