While some community leaders find the recent report on Revelstoke having the third highest overdose rate in the province devastating, it isn’t surprising.
“We knew this was coming. It’s been a ticking time bomb,” said Jill Zacharias, social development coordinator at the City of Revelstoke.
According to data from the BC Coroners Service, since 2003 there have been 12 overdose deaths in Revelstoke, the majority of which have been in the last two years. There were six in 2018 and three since March of this year.
Of the nine deaths since 2018, six were male and three were female. All were between the ages of 30 to 69.
The BC Coroners Service said there are zero records of overdose deaths in Revelstoke prior 2003.
While the government has urged people to stay home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to stem the spread of the virus, drug overdoses have flourished.
The province said 168 people have died from COVID-19 in B.C., compared to 554 for overdoses as of May 31 for 2020.
The vast majority of drug overdose deaths involve fentanyl.
The BC Coroners Service said 170 people died this May in B.C. from overdoses, which is the highest ever recorded in a single month.
“The pandemic has worsened mental health because more people are alone,” said Zacharias. She said the people dying in Revelstoke from overdoses are not tourists, but live and work in Revelstoke.
Stacie Byrne is one of the coordinators behind the Revelstoke Community Opioid Dialogue project that aimed to start community conversation to remove stigmas surrounding substance use.
She said while there are many services in the city to help with drug use, more work needs to be done.
For one, Byrne said it would help if there was someone, like a public health nurse, working on the street.
“We’re not really going to where the people are. Instead, we’re relying on them coming to us for help.”
The Revelstoke Community Opioid Dialogue project ended last year.
While Mayor Gary Sulz said he found the coroner’s report disappointing, he is limited in what he could say to media due to his role as the community’s funeral director.
However, Sulz said the city is working on ways to combat the overdose crisis.
Judy Darcy, the minister of mental health and addictions, said in an interview last month that sadly overdose deaths have become routine to people in B.C.
Due to the social isolation of COVID-19, Zacharias said it’s now more important than ever to reach out to neighbours to make sure people are not alone.
She said the high overdose rate in Revelstoke is not the community’s failure, but a failure of Canadian society.
“People have mental health problems for a reason,” said Zacharias.
“Don’t be alone. If you need help, reach out to someone you trust,” Zacharias said.
Do you need help?
There are a list of health and community services available at revelstokelife.ca
Community Connections: 250-837-2920 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Revelstoke Mental Health and Substance Use: 250-814-2241
BC Crisis Line: 1-800-suicide (784-2433)
Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789
Revelstoke Women’s Shelter: 250-837-1111
Revelstoke Alcoholics Anonymous: 250-837-1958
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