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3 people die of drug poisonings within 1 week in Nelson

Paramedics responded to 10 calls for service between June 25 and July 1
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A group holds signs up outside Nelson City Hall in April during an event to mark the seventh anniversary of the toxic drug crisis. Photo: Tyler Harper

Three people died of drug poisonings in Nelson over seven days during one of the city’s most tragic weeks since the start of provincial crisis seven years ago.

The fatalities, which occurred between June 25 and July 1, were confirmed by Chief Donovan Fisher of the Nelson Police Department as well as Amber Streukens of the Rural Empowered Drug Users Network.

A spokesperson for BC Emergency Health Services said it responded to 10 calls for service related to poisonings or overdoses during that time, but could not provide details on patient outcomes.

The BC Coroners Service did not yet have the data to confirm how many people died, but a spokesperson said it would provide an update on fatalities within the Nelson local health area, which includes Salmo and parts of the Slocan Valley, at some point in the coming weeks.

The deaths would mean the Nelson area has had at least seven deaths in 2023. Data from the Coroners Service shows four people died due to illicit drugs from Jan. 1 through May 31.

The Nelson area had its worst year for drug deaths and calls for assistance in 2022, with a record 10 people dying (that number was previously announced as 11 in February) and paramedics responding to 108 calls, up from 47 the previous year.

The latest deaths come during a community debate over where Interior Health should install an inhalation tent for local substance users.

Nelson has an overdose prevention site that operates at two locations, but no services for supervised inhalation. Smoking is the most common way drugs are consumed by people who have been killed in B.C. Over 12,000 British Columbians have died since the toxic drug crisis was declared in 2016.

Interior Health announced it would set up an inhalation site at the Nelson Friendship Outreach Clubhouse, which IH has used in the past to provide services such as mental health support to Nelson’s street community.

But IH backtracked on the plan after residents and businesses located near the site, as well as the City of Nelson and the police department, voiced concerns about the lack of security and what they say is a rise in nearby crime and vandalism.

At a June 29 meeting organized by the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Janice Morrison told business owners that city council will consider a bylaw banning public drug consumption. Premier David Eby has said a provincial ban on drug use in public parks will come before the Legislature in the fall.

Fisher also said the department would hire two Community Safety Officers to patrol downtown. The officers won’t have an enforcement role but will be asked to communicate with homeless residents and business owners while also working with uniformed officers and outreach workers.

READ MORE:

Six Nelson police officers retired, resigned so far in 2023

‘Our systems are failing people’: Nelson marks 7 years of toxic drug crisis

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com
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