Calls for potential overdoses in B.C. spiked in 2020, especially in the Okanagan - Shuswap. Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. (BCHES photo)

UBCO program increases drug checking availability in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon

January 2021 data shows of 95 opioid samples tested across Interior Health, 93 contained fentanyl

  • Feb. 25, 2021 12:00 a.m.

Due to a new drug-checking service provided by UBC Okanagan, the number of opioids being tested in the Interior Health region increased significantly in January.

Drug checking is a harm-reduction service that allows people to check what’s in their drugs before using.

With the support of Interior Health, UBCO Campus Health’s Harm Reduction Team (HaRT) now provides confidential drug-checking services using a Fourier Transformed Infrared Spectroscopy Analysis (FTIR) machine. Before January, the nearest FTIR machine to the Okanagan was in Kamloops.

The machine allows technicians to find the various components of the provided samples for anything present in a concentration of five per cent or greater. Test strips, which can detect fentanyl and benzodiazepines at lower concentrations, are used in conjunction with the machine for more accurate results.

READ MORE: Overdose calls spike in 2020 across the Okanagan – Shuswap

READ MORE: Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

January 2021 numbers, from the BC Centre on substance use show of 95 opioid samples tested across Interior Health, 93 contained fentanyl. Data also shows an upward trend of opioids testing positive for benzodiazepine, from almost 23 per cent in December to 38 in January. Interior Health issued eight drug checking alerts in January — five in Kamloops, two in Vernon and one in Penticton — for drugs adulterated with benzodiazepine and synthetic cannabinoids.

The executive director of Kelowna’s Living Positive Resource Centre, Fahmy Baharuddin, said drug checking is important now more than ever. He said between the province not yet finding a way to decriminalize substance use and the COVID-19 pandemic causing people to cut corners, fentanyl has seen a dramatic increase in the drug supply.

READ MORE: Federal government provides $15 million for safer drug pilot programs in B.C.

HaRT will be doing on-site drug checking in Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton every week at the following times:

Tuesdays – Vernon

  • 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Vernon Downtown Mental Health & Substance Use (3306A 32nd Ave). Contact Mental Health & Substance Use (250-503-3737) to drop off samples outside of HaRT hours.

Wednesdays – Kelowna

  • 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. UBCO Campus, Room 336 UNC
  • 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Living Positive Resource Centre (255 Lawrence Ave.). Contact Living Positive Resource Centre (778-753-5830 or info@lprc.ca) to drop off samples outside of HaRT hours.

Saturdays – Penticton

  • 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p..m. The Centre, in the Cannery Building (1475 Fairview Rd.). Samples can be dropped off at Burdock House (594 Winnipeg Street, 236-422-1601) throughout the week.

Information on how to package samples for after-hours drop-off is available on UBCO’s Campus Health webpage and HaRT available by phone and text at 250-864-1431.

HaRT also offers naloxone training and distribution, take-home fentanyl test strips, sterile supplies, education and referrals to support services.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


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