Kelowna paramedics are dealing with a high volume of overdose calls during the city’s biggest party weekends.
Between July 23 and 29, paramedics were called to 30 potential overdose scenes, said Shannon Miller, communications officer for BC Emergency Heath Services. On average an average week, there are 20 potential overdose calls in Kelowna.
Narrowing down the timeframe for ODs further, Miller said that calls spiked on the July 27 weekend, where 17 total potential overdose calls were made— six calls were made on the Friday alone.
One suspected reason for the rise in ODs is the Center of Gravity festival which, on that same weekend, opened the flood gates for club kids who make their way to the Okanagan to dress up, dance, and potentially indulge in any number of substances.
Last year as it unfolded in the city there was a similar spike of potential OD calls with nine made on the opening day. The overall number of OD calls also reached 30 during the same week.
The difference between the two weekends, however, comes down to the death of a teenager at this year’s event.
Adison Davies, 16, died during the Friday of the event. That drugs were involved with the Kamloops girl’s death was confirmed by her friend Sam Thacker, who said she is one of two people he knows to have purchased the methamphetamine known as Molly and overdose.
Thacker told a Kamloops this Week reporter a friend of his said he and Davies had obtained some drugs at the festival.
“A few hours later, he was shaking and he came over to me and said, ‘I need help. I need help,’” Thacker said.
Thacker and others got the friend to the first-aid tent, where a team of doctors, nurses and paramedics went to work immediately. An ambulance was stationed nearby.
“They hit him with something,” Thacker said, likely an injection of Naloxone, which is used to temporarily reverse an overdose from opioids. His friend is heavier and stronger, which Sam suspects helped the teen react positively to the medical intervention.
A short time later he saw Davies being carried into the medical tent by two paramedics.
When asked for comment from Live Nation about a spike of overdoses on COG weekend, they re-issued the comment about Davies.
“Center of Gravity organizers can confirm that a female was treated onsite by BCEHS and the festival medical team on July 27 before being transported by ambulance to Kelowna General Hospital where she passed away. We are currently cooperating with local authorities as they investigate the situation. Our deepest condolences for the family and friends affected.”
While there may be some symetry when it comes to local call spikes and party events, Kelowna is not the only city that fared poorly that weekend and the issue gained the attention of the premier.
“To think that happened 130 times last week on one day is staggering for the public and speaks to the amount of work we have to do to get this scourge out of our cities and out of our province,” Premier John Horgan said to Canadian Press. “With respect to the timing of this latest rash of overdoses, it strikes me these numbers are unprecedented, and our job is to make sure we’re doing more in the days ahead.”
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran could not be reached for comment before publication about whether the city is aware of a link between a potential rise in OD calls on party weekends or not.
BC Emergency Health Services has projected that in Kelowna we will surpass the 1,000 calls for overdoses once again this year, in 2017 there were 1,040, in 2016 there were 785 and in 2015 there were 502.
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