By Eric Elliott
Questions to Columbia Valley RCMP Sgt. Bob Vatamaniuck about the ongoing fentanyl crisis continued to surface at the recent Radium Hot Springs town council meeting held on Wednesday, February 8th, 2017.
Councillor Mike Gray was the second councillor from a Columbia Valley council to bring the issue to Sgt. Vatamaniucks attention after Coun. Al Miller of the District of Invermere brought it up to him during their council meeting on January 24th.
My nightmare scenario for us as a village is that we have people in the summer time, piling in from out of town, that dont always come prepared and take a dumb action while theyre here and we just dont have that training prep, said Mr. Gray, who is also the owner of the Horsethief Pub in Radium. If this trend has been going up all year, this summer is going to be a rough one on us and Id hate to see body bags as a result.
Sgt. Vatamaniuck agreed with Mr. Gray in his wish for a safe summer in Radium Hot Springs, one Mr. Gray expects to be busier than usual because of Canadas 150th anniversary.
Were worried, Sgt. Vatamaniuck said. Statistically, I think were reflective of just about anywhere else. Were certainly not immune, is what Im trying to say. There is fentanyl in the valley, there are fentanyl users in the Valley and some of them have succumbed to the drug itself and there has been a loss of life and near-losses of life.
Similar to his answers to Invermere council, Sgt. Vatamaniuck reminded council that the best way to deal with the drug crisis is for those with information to come forward and assist the police with their investigations, whether they do it anonymously or directly.
There are certain investigative steps that need to be taken to solidify prosecutorial success, Sgt. Vatamaniuck said. Thats one thing coming from the background that I have, I think its important that if were going to take enforcement initiatives that we do it right. Its not going to help anyone if I hear a rumour and I go kick a door and seize a few tabs off of someones dresser.
As an owner of a bar, Mr. Gray questioned whether local businesses should be investing in injection kits or other safety measures such as NARCAN Nasal Spray kits to help prevent another fentanyl fatality in the future.
Sgt. Vatamaniuck said the Columbia Valley isnt in the situation currently where he would recommend gas stations getting NARCAN kits, but mentioned that bar and nightclub owners may be interested in getting the training and kits required to deal with an overdose in the event of an emergency. According to Sgt. Vatamaniuck, NARCAN kits can cost $100 per container and work for one overdose.
Thats really where were losing people, because they know their sons or daughters are using fentanyl and if they do find them in a comatose state, they dont have the NARCAN or treatment needed to deal with it, he said.
Radium Hot Springs fire chief Dave Dixon also brought up the issue of his firefighters not being trained to use NARCAN or injection kits despite being first responders.
According to the BC Coroners Service, 914 people died in 2016 due to illicit drug use but it is still unclear what exact number are directly related to fentanyl usage.