Kelowna worst for ODs

Alanna Kelly

Kelowna's overdose death rate is as bad as Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and Surrey's Whalley Strip.

“Kelowna has the highest death rate in the Okanagan at currently 44.3 deaths per 100,000, which is equivalent to what one sees in areas around downtown Surrey and a little bit bigger than (the) Downtown Eastside,” Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Trevor Corneil told an Interior Health board meeting, Thursday.

The annual overdose death rate in Kelowna is now double that for people who die from motor vehicle accidents. 

“It tends to impact ... males between 30 and 49, and we are seeing an increase in non-fatal events in younger age people,” said Corneil. “The numbers also show about 20 per cent are Aboriginal identifying.” 

About 80 per cent of these overdoses are occurring in homes. 

What is happening in Kelowna is what he calls a "neighbouring effect" in which substance use is not ghettoized and there is a wide spectrum of users. 

Jospeh Savage, IH director of mental health, said there were 46 OD deaths in Kelowna from January to June, and deaths this year "are expected to be double that of 2016.”

Savage said 30 to 39 year olds are at the highest risk. 

“We are now requiring all persons who go through withdrawal management to actually be stabilized on at least a short course of opioid agonist therapy or replacement therapy, which tapers down, if they choose, so we don’t actually increase their risk of death,” said Corneil.

Interior Health is implementing new techniques to reach people who use at home and behind closed doors. 

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