On January 25, Penticton residents received good news: deaths from drug overdose fell from 30 to 22 last year in the region, against the provincial trend. It reinforces that the work being done to strengthen connections between acute and community services is helping to reduce the impact of the toxic drug crisis.
Since 2016, 100 More Homes (100MH), a collaborative that has United Way BC as its backbone organization, has operated as a community roundtable of local non-profit service providers, municipal partners, health authorities, and community champions. Their shared goal is to prevent and address chronic homelessness in Penticton, break down stigma, and ensure there is access to harm reduction for all people who use drugs, not just those who are unhoused or precariously housed.
Penticton has also seen an increase in coordination across multiple agencies, including Interior Health, BC Housing, the City of Penticton, and numerous non-profit organizations like Onesky, Penticton Overdose Prevention Society (photo), Foundry, Ask Wellness, and Moms Stop the Harm to name a few. All these agencies are working towards the same goal as 100MH of reducing the impact of the toxic drug crisis in a more coordinated way.
“Many community organizations have been working tirelessly in response to the toxic drug crisis in our efforts to save lives. It is a relief to see the data trending in a more hopeful direction, and I believe that our community’s collaborative and coordinated efforts are linked to these better outcomes. In addition to all the community-based organizations,100 More Homes is fortunate to have Interior Health, the City of Penticton, and BC Housing as integral partners,” says Tanya Behardien, co-chair of 100 More Homes and Executive Director of OneSky Community Resources.
There are more accessible services than ever before available in the Penticton area for support and help around substance use. Community feedback, peer-led guidance, and grass-roots community tables have helped design these services with Interior Health across the spectrum of Harm Reduction (outreach/clinical services, peer support, and overdose prevention services), intervention/treatment (counselling services, day program, aftercare, increased access to opiate agonist therapy, community outpatient withdrawal services etc.) and an Addictions Medicine Consult Service and physician. All services have been increased to reach both the hospital and community settings.
Although there is still a lot to be accomplished, the numbers show that the direction taken is the right path.