Researcher will discuss opioid crisis during Vernon visit to Okanagan College

Researcher digs deeper into the provincial overdose crisis

  • Feb. 26, 2018 2:33 p.m.

More than 1,400 people died in the province of British Columbia of illicit drug use in 2017, compared to 993 the previous year. According to the B.C. Coroners Service, fentanyl use has reportedly caused more than 80 per cent of suspected deaths last year.

How, exactly, did we get here?

That’s the question that will be put forward by renowned researcher, Cheyenne Johnson when she speaks at Okanagan College next week.

Johnson, who is the Director of Clinical Activities and Development at the British Columbia Center on Substance Use and the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse, will share her perspective on the challenges of dealing with what some are calling the worst public health crisis in the province’s history, when she presents Beyond opioids: the overdose crisis—how did we get here? at the Vernon campus on Fri., March 9.

The talk is part of the Science in Society Speaker Series presented jointly by Okanagan College and the Okanagan Science Centre. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

In her lecture, Johnson will provide a broad overview of the current overdose crisis and will also focus on the key gaps to improving the substance use system of care in BC. Key topics discussed will include stigma, science and social policy.

“Addiction, especially opioid addiction, doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. Most chronic diseases don’t,” Johnson said in a release Feb.22.

“Harm reduction is the foundation of all substance-use care. It is the lens through which we provide programs, policies and services, such as needle distribution, safe consumption sites, overdose prevention and education.”

In February, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy, announced the provincial government would be sinking $1.5-million into the fight against the B.C’s opioid crisis by funding community action teams (CAT) in 18 communities, including Vernon.

In her announcement, Darcy said each of the 18 communities are eligible to receive up to $100,000 in one-time funding to create the teams.

These CATS, according to Patrick Gall, communications coordinator for Interior Health, will be boots on the ground in each community — tasked with spearheading local coordination and communication to respond to the needs of those most at risk of overdose within their communities.

“They are not an advisory group, they are an action group,” Gall wrote in an email following Darcy’s announcement.

“They will identify and address service gaps, apply successful strategies, share learnings, and integrate the current response at a local community level,”

“There are specific strategies and interventions for the health care and community environment to address.”

Gall said the community action team memberships will vary from municipality to municipality and, although there are suggested appropriate members, each community has the opportunity to develop a team or enhance a team based on their community needs and resources. 

Admission to Johnson’s lecture is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets call the Okanagan Science Centre at (250) 545-3644 or visit

Erin Christie

Morning Star Staff


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