Paramedics responded to spike in overdose calls in Vernon, Salmon Arm in 2021, a trend seen across B.C. (File photo)

Paramedics responded to spike in overdose calls in Vernon, Salmon Arm in 2021, a trend seen across B.C. (File photo)

Overdose calls to paramedics spike in Vernon, Salmon Arm in 2021

B.C.-wide calls increase by 30%, smaller communities in North Okanagan-Shuswap see steadier totals

Like the rest of B.C., the number of overdose calls paramedics responded to in the North Okanagan-Shuswap in 2021 spiked in the larger communities.

Provincewide, B.C. paramedics went to a record 35,525 overdose calls, up 31 per cent from 2020. The statistics were supplied by BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) on Wednesday, Jan. 12.

• Vernon, with the largest population in the North Okanagan, was struck with the largest number of overdose calls in 2021 at 457. That’s an increase from 316 calls in 2020. The totals in Vernon from 2016 to 2019 began at 170, spiking to 322 in 2017, then 285 in 2018 and 247 in 2019.

• In Salmon Arm, overdose calls paramedics responded to in 2021 totalled 96, up 37 per cent from 60 in 2020. In 2016 to 2019, calls in Salmon Arm rose fairly steadily, with totals of 37, 36, 49 and 50.

Read more: Vernon overdoses spike amid COVID-19 pandemic

• Enderby stayed relatively even through the six years, with paramedics responding to 20 overdose calls in 2016, 22 in 2017, a drop to 13 in 2018, 27 in 2019, 29 in 2020 and 27 in 2021.

• Coldstream didn’t see a big jump in overdose calls in 2021. Numbers were as follows: 18 in 2016, 15 in 2017, 10 in 2018, 15 in 2019, another 15 in 2020 and 20 in 2021.

• Chase, like Vernon, saw a spike in 2017. However, the numbers in Chase dropped in 2021. 2016 saw 11, the 2017 total was 19, 2018 – 17, 2019 and 2020 both saw 14 and 2021 was down to nine.

Of the six North Okanagan-Shuswap communities listed, Armstrong had the lowest number of pandemic responses to overdose calls in 2021. The numbers over the six years were pretty even overall, with 12 in 2016, 10 in 2017, 11 in 2018, eight in 2019, 11 in 2020 and eight in 2021.

B.C.-wide, overdose calls have nearly tripled since 2015, when 12,263 calls were received by paramedics. The province declared the overdose crisis a public health emergency in 2016.

In terms of deaths, 1,782 overdose deaths due to illicit drugs were recorded by the province in the first 10 months of 2021. Statistics for November and December were not yet available.

– With files from Katya Slepian

Read more: B.C. paramedics receive record number of overdose calls in 2021, up 31% since 2020




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