Amid a B.C.-wide overdose alert and spikes in overdoses in March and April across the province, demand for harm reduction supplies have increased in Hope.
Kim Roberts at Hope’s public health unit, speaking at a community health meeting, said the unit is going through a lot of harm reduction supplies. “The demand has certainly been up,” she said.
The unit provides supplies including injection and smoking kits, condoms for males and females and naloxone kits and sharp containers said Dr. Martin Lavoie, Fraser Health’s chief medical health officer. There is also a new sharps disposal box outside of the 444 Park St. location.
For Boston Bar residents, Lavoie said the Hope and Area Transition Society team as well as the Riverstone mobile detox program bring harm reduction supplies to the community – these would be the same kinds of supplies available in Hope. Pacific Community Resources also do a weekly delivery of harm reduction supplies to communities from Chilliwack to Boston Bar.
Lavoie said the increase in demand for injection and smoking kits, needles and naloxone kits is a ‘good news story.’ “It means people are aware and they’re using what is available out there to protect themselves,” he said. The demand has been growing slowly over time and whether the increase has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic would be too recent to speculate about Lavoie said.
Another provincial overdose alert came out March 21, following on a previous alert. Across B.C., people who use both stimulants and ‘downers’ are being warned of increased drug toxicity. The alert warns of an increase in fatal and non-fatal overdoses through smoking and injecting these substances as well as “severe overdoses related to smoking stimulants and down due to the rapid onset of effects.”
“So all those that are coming in for harm reduction, we’re reminding them to really be careful,” Roberts said.
Hope’s death rate from illicit drug overdoses rivals that of Vancouver and data from as far back as 2009 shows the rate of overdose deaths is on a steady rise. In March three people linked to Hope died of suspected drug overdoses. In the Fraser Health east region, which stretches from Abbotsford to Boston Bar, there were over 25 deaths in April.