Overdose calls in Vernon were up 28 per cent in 2020 over the previous year — data that comes at a time when B.C. paramedics are sounding the alarm following another morbid milestone in the province’s overdose crisis.
BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) paramedics were called to 146 overdoses Wednesday (May 19), setting a new provincial record for calls in a 24-hour period.
Five of those calls were in Vernon, four were in Kelowna and seven in Penticton.
This is now the second month in a row that B.C. recorded a new 24-hour record for overdose calls on a Wednesday, the day income assistance cheques are received. Since 2009, 40 per cent more people have died on what many call Welfare Wednesday and the days that follow, according to 2018 research from the B.C. Centre for Substance Use.
Paramedics in Vernon were called to 316 overdoses last year, the city’s highest call volume since 2017. The trend in Vernon can be seen around the province, which saw 27,068 overdose calls last year — up 12 per cent.
Calls in Lake Country nearly doubled in 2020 over 2019, from 24 overdose calls to 47.
“Paramedics want people to know the vast majority of overdose deaths happen when people use alone because there is no one to call 911,” said Shannon Miller, BCEHS communications officer.
When paramedics are called to respond to a potential overdose patient, the patient has a 95 per cent chance of survival, according to BCEHS.
“This is why we stress the importance of not using alone, and to call 911 if you see someone who may be experiencing an overdose. If someone does use alone, we encourage them to use the LifeGuard App. It has already saved lives since it was launched a year ago,” Miller said.
– With files from Ashley Wadhwani