A year after Invermere’s opioid clinic opened, the centre is supporting 10 to 20 patients at any given time and has the capacity to treat more.

“People are in recovery and are getting better,” said Chris Huston, a mental health and substance use administrator for Interior Health in the region. “We believe (having local clinics) is helping keep people alive.”

According to the BC Coroners Service, last year 1,450 people in the province died from unintentional drug overdoses.

“The numbers are staggering,” Mr. Huston said.

Essentially all of the provincial overdose deaths over the past few years have been related to fentanyl, he said, which makes the services the opioid clinic provides even more important.

“If we can provide support to people, get them into recovery, have them not expose themselves to this very dangerous drug, they have a better chance at staying alive,” he said.

Previously those seeking treatment for opioid addictions had to travel to Cranbrook, he said, adding that the drive for appointments and to get medication was “a pretty big burden” for those who needed support.

Offering a local clinic means “we have a much better chance in this opiate overdose crisis in preventing the harms for people around better access, better engagement, getting to see real physicians in your own community and having reduced barriers to access to good clinical care,” he said. “We’re giving our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, grandparents a better chance to not experience the tragic consequence of a poisoned drug supply.”

Drugs that are considered opiates include heroin, OxyContin, Demerol and more.

People from all walks of life suffer from opiate addictions, he said. Since the clinic offers outpatient services, it is able to support working employees, parents with children and those with other time commitments.

Mr. Huston wants people to know “there are options for them to keep themselves safe.”

He welcomes anyone with questions about future planning, service delivery or community engagement for mental health and substance use to contact him directly at 250-420-2276.

The clinic is open Mondays to Fridays from 8:30 to 4:30 p.m., with physicians taking appointments with clients on Thursday mornings. The clinic is located within Invermere Mental Health at 850 – 10th Avenue. The office number is 250-342-2363. People can call or stop by for more information.

East Kootenay Addiction Services also provides support for those with addictions. They have an adult counsellor and a youth counsellor in Invermere. The phone number for the local branch is 250-342-3868.