In a year marked by the largest loss of life due to drug overdoses in B.C., Princeton saw a reduction in fatalities.
The province records 1,716 people lost to overdose, in a report recently released by the BC Coroner’s office detailing the statistics of 2020.
That amounts to a 74 per cent increase over the previous year.
“The impacts of COVID-19 highlighted the immensely precarious situation of those experiencing problematic substance use in our province,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said during a news conference.
“It’s clear that urgent change is needed to prevent future deaths and the resulting grief and loss so many families and communities have experienced across our province.”
Yet Princeton, a community that has led the province in drug related deaths per capitafor at least two years, had some relief, experiencing a 22 per cent drop in fatalities.
Between 2018 and 2020, eight Princeton residents died of suspected overdose.
That still lands the town on the ‘top 15’ of community deaths per the population metric. Hope, Vancouver and Keremeos made the tragic podium, with Princeton coming in sixth.
“Well I’m happy our numbers are down,” said Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne. “But any overdose is too many. We still have a long way to go dealing with mental health issues in town. COVID has put a lot of stress on mental health services.”
Coyne said any progress made on the problem likely comes from several directions. Town council was instrumental in securing the return of services from the South Okanagan Women in Need Society (SOWINS).
The organization visits Princeton every Friday afternoon with a bus full of harm reduction supplies and the offer of counselling.
As well, harm reduction supplies are available for free at the public health unit, located in the same building as Princeton General Hospital.
Coyne said a factor in Princeton’s recovery rate could be the Naloxone-use training that was made available for first responders, business owners, and organizations in 2019 and early 2020.
“We had training for just about everyone. Kits were made available everywhere and I still have one on my desk here.”
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