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Opioid deaths occurring in Saanich homes a result of stigma, says expert

83 per cent of illicit drug toxicity deaths occurred in private homes in 2019
Saanich council welcomed a presentation from Island Health about the opioid crisis and how it looks in Saanich on Oct. 4. (Black Press Media file photo)

Saanich is not immune to the opioid crisis and council heard how it is manifesting in local suburban homes as opposed to social housing and other locations.

Island Health is pushing for the declaration of a national health emergency and policy changes within Greater Victoria and beyond. During the Saanich council meeting on Oct. 4, which included a presentation from Island Health on the opioid crisis, it was expressed that it will take pressure from society as a whole to encourage much-needed systemic change to address all demographics who experience these addictions.

It was emphasized that within the Saanich demographic, using alone is occurring much more because of the stigma attached to opioid use in suburban communities.

Several graphs were presented regarding illicit drug toxicity deaths by location of overdose and year of death in Saanich since 2016 – with private residence deaths consistently higher than other locations where overdoses typically happen. For example, 83 per cent of these deaths occurred in private homes in 2019 and 52 per cent occurred in 2020. In downtown Victoria, 32 per cent occurred in private residences in 2020.

During the meeting, Dr. Richard Stanwick, vice president of population health and chief medical health officer at Island Health, said that developing a holistic and national strategy is key to addressing this issue. He added that decriminalization is another key to addressing overdoses occurring both in private residences, the streets and other locations.

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Stanwick said that much of the issue is that people use alone because of the fear and the stigma of being caught. “You become a criminal if you use these substances other than under the direction of a physician.”

People die because of the fear it creates, Stanwick said.

Island Health is encouraging a more progressive policy to support people who are using substances. It was said that society is further isolating and pushing people to use alone if there continues to be a lack of overdose protection services in Greater Victoria.

“Our interest and willingness to do what we can to address this ongoing crisis is a standing offer,” said Coun. Rebecca Mersereau at the end of the presentation.


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