In its latest report, Interior Health reaffirms its efforts and progress made in addressing the poisoned drugs crisis in the region.

The report published on August 31, on International Overdose Awareness Day, includes updates on the impact of the unregulated poisoning emergency since the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the reasons behind substance use and the many ways to respond to the crisis.

In the report made by Dr. Carol Fenton, Interior Health’s medical health officer, showed how the unregulated drug poisoning crisis continues to get worse. The public health emergency in British Columbia was declared in April 2016 after the Province reported a significant increase in drug-related overdoses and death.

“It is distressing that despite investment, expansion and preventive measures, the crisis continues to worsen rather than improve,” Fenton said.

According to the report, deaths related to toxic drugs in the Southern Interior region were about 10 times higher in 2021 – with 372 deaths reported – than in 2011 when 38 deaths were reported in the region. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, unregulated drug deaths in the Interior Health Authority region saw an increase from 288 deaths in 2020 to 397 deaths in 2022.

While challenges persist, the health authority acknowledged the importance of helping those who use those substances, but also working in ways to prevent others from starting.

Susan Brown, president and CEO of Interior Health, said that the regional health authority is committed to follow and act on recommendations from the medical chart review project.

“We are also committed to revising our strategy to generate a comprehensive suite of effective solutions to the unregulated substance poisoning emergency,” she said in a news release.

In the news release, Brown also said about Interior Health’s commitment in preventing stigma in health-care settings, designing programs and services with First Nations and Métis partners, increasing access to culturally safe mental health and substance services, as well as working with community partners on prevention.

The report also recommends involving people with lived or living experiences, the development and implementation of a clinical practice standard for substance use in order to educate and equip staff, and increase the efforts on prevention, among others.

For more information, visit the Interior Health Authority website.