Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth of the Penticton RCMP holds a syringe as emergency workers put an overdose victim on a stretcher at a Government Street house. Mark Brett/Western News file photo

Penticton’s overdose death rate most likely tops Kelowna’s

Preliminary data released to the Western News show up to 20 died last year of overdose in Penticton

Up to 20 people died of an overdose in Penticton, last year, at a per-capita rate even higher than in Kelowna.

Data is still in its preliminary stages, as the B.C. Coroners Service awaits more toxicology reports, but a spokesperson said the total number of overdose deaths in Penticton is not likely to drop lower than 17. The Western News obtained that number after a lengthy discourse with the Coroners Service, initially hesitant to release any data for Penticton.

Related: Penticton hospital fourth busiest in the region for opioid overdose

That compares to 75 in Kelowna and makes up part of the 150 deaths in the Okanagan, which saw a rate of 38.5 deaths per 100,000 people.

Using B.C.’s 2017 population projections, consistent with the Coroners Service’s methodology, Kelowna’s rate of overdose deaths adds up to about 37.5 per 100,000. Even at the lower end of its range, Penticton rate would be higher, with a rate of 40 to 48 per 100,000. At the high end, that is still shy of the rate seen in Vancouver, just shy of 53 per 100,000.

Provincially, with 1,422 deaths last year, the rate sits just below 30 per 100,000.

Penticton did not make 2016’s top-15 list, but Vernon’s overdose death toll hit 13 that year. Penticton’s would have been lower than that.

Related: South Okanagan front line workers say comments add insult to tragedy

For another comparison, though, B.C. Emergency Health Services responded to 220 overdose and poisoning calls in 2017, up 40 per cent from 2016. That compares to a 21.6-per-cent spike in overdose/poisoning calls B.C.-wide and a 32.4-per-cent rise in Kelowna, with 1,040 calls last year.

Typically, overdose calls make about three-fifths of all overdose and poisoning calls.

“We do hear of overdoses — overdoses, not necessarily deaths, but certainly overdoses on a weekly basis,” said Daryl Meyers, executive director of Pathways Addictions Resources Centre. “There’s reports of carfentanil, now, in the area.”

Related: Penticton group, IH eyeing overdose prevention site

Neither Penticton nor Vernon made the top-15 list put out by the Coroners Service this year, and after a request for the numbers for Penticton, the provincial service suggested it could only provide numbers for the health services delivery area, that being the Okanagan region.

A few emails were exchanged with the Coroners Service between Jan. 31 and Feb. 14, followed by phone conversations this week with advocacy group B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association and independent freedom-of-information and privacy watchdog Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

A conversation that followed with Coroners Service led to the release of Penticton’s figures.

Related: Nine suspected fatal overdoses over five days

Part of the issue is the balance of privacy and access to information, something that governments are still figuring out, and something that will be explored further in a follow-up article in the Western News.

“This is the kind of thing that really should be made available, and should probably be made available on a website,” said FIPA B.C. executive director Vincent Gogolek.

“Obviously fentanyl poisonings and other related things are being a matter of public interest these days.”

Related: Ongoing overdose crisis needs a different approach, says health authority


@dustinrgodfrey

dustin.godfrey@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

City of Revelstoke and CSRD reach fire protection agreement

A new fire protection agreement has been negotiated between the City of… Continue reading

Cost to Revelstoke taxpayers as well as developers affected by proposed bylaw

If the tabled Development Cost Charge bylaw is passed sewer user costs will increase dramatically

Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past-Aug. 15

Cathy English Revelstoke Museum & Archives Glimpses of the Past - Items… Continue reading

‘Art Alleries’ coming to Revelstoke with funding from the Columbia Basin Trust

Rob Buchanan’s creations will be hung on alleyway walls and lit

Animal rights activists to protest Kelowna’s RibFest launch

Animal rights activists plan on sinking their teeth into an annual event they say is unethical and unhealthy.

Updated: ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin has died

Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn reports Franklin passed Thursday at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit

B.C. golfer, just 23, scores the rare albatross

Six-million-to-one shot a first for the Terrace club

Fredericton widow swears at Trudeau during condolence call

Widow of man killed in Fredericton shooting says she swore at Trudeau during condolence call.

Tim Hortons promises leaky lids on coffee cups to be phased out

Tim Hortons looks to rebuild its brand with better lid, new marketing campaign

‘There’s been a lot of devastation:’ man whose family lost homes in B.C. fire

The provincial government declared a state of emergency Wednesday as more than 550 wildfires burn in every corner of B.C.

Capsized tug now out of the water at the mouth of B.C.’s Fraser River

The 19-metre-long George H. Ledcor capsized late Monday.

Aheadbyacentury looking for Triple Crown breakthrough in the Breeders’ Stakes

The consistent Aheadbyacentury has $513,800 in career earnings, including $311,250 this year thanks in large part to his Triple Crown performances.

Olalla fire grows to 50 hectares

A wildfire near Olalla is currently not threatening and structures

Search for mudslide victim becomes recovery mission

Valerie Morris was swept away by a mudslide on Highway 99 near Cache Creek on August 11.

Most Read