Compared to other communities, the 13 drug overdose deaths in Vernon last year may not seem huge or reflect a crisis.
However, statistics don’t reflect the fact that these 13 individuals were somebody’s child, parent, friend, spouse, sibling, neighbour or co-worker. They didn’t neatly fit the stereotype of a drug addict or the homeless.
All of them, just as we all do, had untapped potential, especially when you consider the median age was 36.
The other sobering statistic is 916 overdose deaths across B.C. in 2016. You can only truly understand the magnitude when you compare that number to something relative. In this case, consider everybody in Cherryville dead but 13 residents.
From a presentation to Vernon council Monday, it appears the Interior Health Authority is doing everything possible to respond to the crisis.
“Different ministries are working together. Those conversations are happening,” said Dr. Trevor Corneil, Interior Health Authority chief medical health officer
Much of the focus is providing information to drug users and the public about the risk, while attempts are being made to reduce the wait lists for substance abuse counselling.
But, unfortunately, substance abuse and the factors that lead to addiction are complex. There are no easy solutions and the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.
Our thoughts need to be with our emergency personnel on the front lines, and with those individuals and families who are experiencing the perils of drug addiction first hand. Now is not the time to judge, but to demonstrate compassion.