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Fentanyl test strips help keep people safer this winter

December 20, 2017


VANCOUVER ISLAND – Fentanyl test strips are now available at Island Health’s supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites, allowing people to test drugs before they are consumed. Sites in Victoria, the city with the third-highest number of overdose deaths in B.C. this year, are the first locations on Vancouver Island to receive the strips.

Overdose prevention sites in Duncan, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Courtenay and Campbell River will have strips by the end of December. The strips are free to people checking drugs while at an overdose prevention or supervised consumption site.

“It isn’t a perfect method for detecting contaminants and a risk still exists regardless of the results, which is why we are making them available at supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites,” said Dr. Murray Fyfe, Medical Health Officer, Island Health. “We hope that drug checking will become part of a routine for people using drugs at these sites to do so more safely – combining drug checking with proven existing harm reduction practices should help save lives.”

Recommended harm reduction practices include using with a friend who is not also using at the same time, starting with a lower dose, and having a naloxone kit handy.

In addition to supervised consumption and overdose prevention services, other Island Health supports for people who use illicit drugs include opioid agonist treatments such as methadone and Suboxone along with peer support, mental health services and sobering, stabilizing, treatment and recovery beds.

Although the holidays are often a time of joy, it can also be difficult and lonely. Island Health would like to remind people to take precautions when using drugs and look out for one another during the holiday season. During the winter holidays in 2016, there was a marked increase in overdose deaths in B.C. – a sign of the impending opioid crisis. Since that time, overdose rates have continued to increase at an alarming rate. Between January and October, 1,208 people died of drug overdoses in B.C. in 2017, 198 from our Island communities.

WHEN December 21, 2017 at 9:00 a.m.

WHERE Our Place Society Overdose Prevention Site at 919 Pandora Avenue

PHOTO/INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITY

  • Dr. Murray Fyfe, Medical Health Officer, Island Health
  • Sophie Bannar-Martin, Manager STOP HIV & Bloodborne Diseases, Island Health
  • Demonstration of the use of drug testing strips

Opioid crisis by the numbers:

  • 1,208 people died of drug overdoses in B.C. in 2017 between January and October (198 on the Island)
  • 82% of the people who died from drug overdoses were men 
  • 87.3% of drug overdoses occurred indoors
  • At Island Health overdose prevention sites between December 2016 and December 2, 2017 there were 66,200 visits and 579 overdoses
  • 0 deaths at overdose prevention sites

Island Health, one of seven health jurisdictions in British Columbia, provides health care and support services to more than 765,000 people on Vancouver Island, the islands in the Salish Sea and the Johnstone Strait, and mainland communities north of Powell River.

With more than 20,000 staff, 1,900 physician partners, 6,000 volunteers, and the dedicated support of foundations and auxiliaries, Island Health delivers a broad range of health services, including: public health services, primary health care, home and community care, mental health and addictions services, acute care in hospitals, and much more across a huge, geographically diverse region.


Media contacts

Central/North Island
Adrienne Breen
250.740.6980
Adrienne.breen@viha.ca

South Island
Meribeth Burton
250.519.1815
Meribeth.burton@viha.ca