The year isn’t over yet, but the number of overdose deaths in Penticton has hit an all-time high.
According to statistics recently released by BC Coroners Service, 17 people fatally overdosed in Penticton between January and October of this year.
The city has seen an increase in deaths consistently since 2015, when three people overdosed, followed by seven in 2016, 14 in 2017 and 16 last year.
Vancouver tops the list with 210 overdose deaths so far this year, which is a decrease from the 395 people who lost their lives in 2018.
Despite having a larger population than Penticton, Vernon, Maple Ridge and Langley all reported fewer deaths this year.
This means Penticton had the 12th highest fatal overdose rate in the province, with Kelowna ranking fifth highest with 27 overdose deaths from January to October 2019.
The data does not break down the stats for the Village of Keremeos by year, but it does show eight people fatally overdosed there between 2017 and 2019.
In general, the data shows that the most common age group afflicted by this epidemic are those between the ages of 30 and 39, and the majority of these victims are male.
The report states fentanyl was involved in 85 per cent of the overdose deaths reported this year, a small decrease, about two per cent less than last year. The amount of carfentanil circulating in illicit drugs seems to be on the rise, with the drug being detected in 129 suspected deaths in 2019 compared to 35 deaths in 2018.
It also notes no deaths were reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites, but it does not include circumstances where injury may have occurred at a site and death later occurred in a hospital.
Penticton residents and city council have been pressuring Interior Health to find a solution for the improper disposal of used needles in the city’s public spaces.
City staff previously told the Western News that they have been meeting weekly with the health authority to find a solution and that the city is contemplating drafting a bylaw that would regulate how non-profits and other organizations distribute needles.
This bylaw would not be able to limit the number of needles being distributed in the city.
In 2018, it was reported that 167,000 needles were ordered for Penticton through the B.C. Centre for Disease Control but it does not state how many were distributed.
Recently, the city’s bylaw services initiated a clean-up of Esplanade Park and relocated multiple individuals who were residing within it.
This clean-up effort found 1,200 improperly disposed of needles among other refuse, which took a crew of 12 members seven hours to gather.
The garbage will be burnt by the Penticton Fire Department after the winter.
Western News has reached out to Interior Health for comments about Penticton’s overdose deaths this year and the ongoing opioid epidemic.
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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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