KAMLOOPS — Just a year ago, a large portion of the population didn't know what fentanyl was.
Today it's hard to find someone that doesn't.
On Monday the federal government announced they are softening regulations for communities wanting to open overdose prevention sites, including two in Kamloops and two in Kelowna.
This year 622 people have died from overdoses, 31 of those in Kamloops.
To address the issue, Interior Health will open two overdose prevention sites in Kamloops on Friday, both sites operated by Ask Wellness.
"These are services we'll provide in and around these buildings," said Bob Hughes, Executive Director for Ask Wellness. "We know on the North Shore we have drug paraphernalia that's left outside the building, we have discarded housing setups for camps. The intent for us is we'll be able to be more responsive to the neighborhoods' needs around the consumption of these drugs and obviously, try and save people's lives."
Interior Health says they will add at least two extra Interior Health staff to centers.
"One of those is going to be a nurse," said Dr. Silvina Mema, Medical Health Officer with Interior Health
"This is great news for agencies like Ask Wellness where they're the front-line of this response. They see more than anyone else regarding the problem and I think the help is well received."
Ask Wellness say on top of improving prevention, the new plan will provide relief to stressed-out staff.
"We haven't had the resources at this point to do more than provide people with the equipment," said Hughes. "We've resuscitated more than 40 people in the last 8 months in both of our locations."
Hughes says while long coming, the feds decision on Monday to relax qualifications for prevention centers still caught him off guard.
"Frankly I think it's quite surprising how quickly they were able to shift this from a very onerous responsibility on communities to now really giving communities and giving the provinces the latitude to try to implement something along those lines."
With fentanyl-related overdose deaths rising in B.C., Hughes says the time has never been greater for communities to step up.
"For November we're going to see results that show not only is this continuing, it's escalating in terms of the severity of this opioid crisis. Being able to provide more staff to intervene in these overdoses is just essential."
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