Addict resources concerning

Interior Health was criticised for a lack of addiction services in Penticton Thursday, following a presentation by the health agency to the RDOS board on the overdose crisis.

Penticton director Helena Konanz voiced concerns over how few resources are available for mental health, as well as the number of residents who don't have a family doctor, among other issues.

"It seems to me there's some basic things that Interior Health could do that would actually help this problem tremendously," Konanz said.

"It's not reinventing the wheel, it's just getting some basic services into the regional district."

Medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema acknowledged Konanz's concerns, and pointed out it can be hard for IH to keep up with what is needed across the region.

"Access to family doctors is a problem across the board. And when we go and tell the doctors 'we want you to prescribe suboxone and to take on these patients that have addictions.' And they say 'we don't have time, we are busy with other patients.' And these patients are complex, so even more (of an issue)," Dr. Mema said.

Rae Samson, IH mental health and substance use administrator, added residents in Penticton have good access to opioid therapy and transitional housing, relative to the rest of the province.

"In terms of those building blocks, you're very strong... But for the mainstream population, this is a much bigger problem," Samson said.

In emergency room visits suspected to be for opioid overdoses, Penticton Regional Hospital was fourth among Okanagan hospitals last year with close to 175 visits between Jun. 1, 2016 and Nov. 30, 2017.

Kelowna General Hospital had the most visits in that timeframe, at just over 350. Not far behind in second was Vernon Jubilee Hospital at just over 300.

There were 126 fatal drug overdoses in the Okanagan between January and October in 2017. That total compares to 77 overdose deaths in all of 2016.

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