Island Health issues advisory, warns of increased risk as overdoses rise on North Island

Island Health issues advisory, warns of increased risk as overdoses rise on North Island
Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
File photo.

Island Health has issued a drug poisoning overdose advisory for North Vancouver Island, where it says overdoses are on the rise.

The health authority issued the advisory Tuesday, saying “overdoses are increasing in the area” and “friends, family and community members using opioids and stimulants face increased risk from injection and inhalation.”

It says those who witness someone overdosing should call 911 and stay with them. People should also administer naloxone and give one breath every five seconds.

This website offers a refresher on how to use naloxone.

Island Health says drug users should get their drugs checked. On the North Island, Port Hardy Mental Health and Substance Use at 7070 Shornecliffe Ave. offers drug testing Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The authority posted the advisory to X (formerly Twitter) and included a link to its website for more information on supervised consumption sites and drug-checking services.

The advisory notes that drug users should also carry naloxone, use one substance at a time, know their tolerance, start low and go slow, stagger use with a friend, or, if using alone, let someone know and ask them to check on you.

For additional resources, Island Health says drug users can also download the Connect by Lifeguard app by visiting this website and call National OD Response at 1-888-688-6677.

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The overdose advisory comes just days after two North Island First Nations issued a state of emergency.

Last week, the Gwa’Sala-Nakwaxda’xw First Nations said they were mourning the loss of 11 people in the first two months of the year. Many of those who died were youth, and many of the deaths involved drugs or alcohol, according to the Nations in interviews.

READ ALSO: North Island First Nations declare state of emergency after 11 deaths in 2 months

The Nations have a population of about 600 people, and in the state of emergency, they call on the RCMP to do more to enforce bylaws and council resolutions to address drugs in the community.

Police told CHEK News they’re committed to working to address the issue, which has caused fear in the community.

“There is extreme fear. I’ve been so hesitant to pick up my phone. We just share one death has happened, and through the day, there’s reports that there’s another death,” said Paddy Walkus, a councillor and hereditary chief at the Gwa’Sala-Nakwaxda’xw First Nations.

“I know people are reeling, there’s a lot of distress and despair amongst young people,” added Walkus, whose daughter was one of the 11 people who died.

During a press conference Monday, B.C. Premier David Eby said it was “critically important” to deploy more resources to North Island First Nations. He added that there have been requests for Island Health to increase supports, and the First Nations Health Authority is also working to provide more support.

On Tuesday, an Indigenous Services Canada spokesperson told CHEK News the ministry is working to do the same, adding it’s “in contact with community leadership to provide support to members during their time of grief.”

READ MORE: ‘Critically important’ to deploy resources to First Nations that declared state of emergency: Eby

-with files from CHEK’s Laura Brougham, Dean Stoltz

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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