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Interior Health, RCMP share insight on illicit drugs, overdose crisis at Sicamous support event

‘We need more help in the community, and we need education.’
Lyle Chapman, Sgt. Murray McNeil, Myanne Peacock, Heather Lee, Jeff Connor, Suzie Cameron and Kris Johnson spoke at the drug awareness and community support event on May 23, 2023 in Sicamous. (District of Sicamous Zoom recording screenshot)

Sicamous residents recently had an opportunity to learn more about illicit drugs, addiction and how they can keep all members of their community safe.

A public drug awareness and community support event was held on May 23, hosted by local health and wellness advocates and district councillors Pam Beech and Siobhan Rich.

Beech and Rich have taken on the additional community education as a passion project, said Rich, noting the initiative has council support but is not an official District of Sicamous project.

Since the Jan. 31, 2023 introduction of B.C.’s illicit drug decriminalization policy, which legalized possession of up to 2.5 grams of certain illegal drugs, Sicamous has been adamant about protecting public spaces frequented by youth and children not explicitly protected in the policy. A bylaw amendment prohibiting use of illicit drugs in a specified list of district parks was approved in April, following conversations with Interior Health (IH).

READ MORE: Sicamous bylaw prohibiting drug use in parks with play areas officially adopted

READ MORE: Sicamous council, Interior Health discuss decriminalization ahead of public use bylaw

The community event gathered speakers from different areas of expertise to educate the public and share their opinions on the district’s next steps.

“The government isn’t stepping in to do a lot of education,” said Rich. “We’re trying to involve more Okanagan Shuswap groups, community leaders, educators.”

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo attended, thanking the group for the community education platform and the speakers’ honesty.

Michelle Monsigneur, a mental health and substance use clinician with IH and a psychiatric nurse, presented a slideshow about illicit drugs and their psychological effects, toxic additives to drug supplies and the resulting increase in overdoses.

Two IH harm reduction coordinators, Myanne Peacock and Heather Lee, shared statistics and resources about Sicamous’ history with illicit drug use and specifics about youth harm reduction practices.

In their presentation, Lee and Peacock noted School District 83 is the first in the region to have all of its administrators fully trained on Naloxone kits.

RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil shared drug possession and trafficking charges since 2017 in Sicamous. His report included 10 cases of possession of cocaine, three of those resulting in Crown-approved charges of possession. Crown stayed the charges in only one of those cases, with the other two being related to other convictions.

Two cases of possession of heroin have come through the RCMP in the seven years, and eight cases of possession of meth. All these cases resulted in no case seizures and no charges, McNeil said.

McNeil went over a case from 2019 that led to a conviction for trafficking methamphetamine as well for possession of cocaine and fentanyl, and an 18-month conditional sentence order that was served in the community. A 2022 case led to a guilty plea to possession of heroin, fentanyl, meth and cocaine.

The low statistics since 2017 showed Sicamous hasn’t had a severe problem with illicit drug convictions or charges in recent years, said McNeil.

Jeff Connor, an IH legal substance counsellor, stressed the need to separate the issue from “the black and white of legal or illegal,” comparing illicit drugs to alcohol and marijuana.

A community paramedic with BC Emergency Health Services, Suzie Cameron, spoke about her 30 years of experience and working in Sicamous and Salmon Arm, highlighting training she is doing to prepare the communities to recognize overdoses and respond with Naloxone kits. She taught a quick overview on administrating Naloxone and shared tips on life-saving practices.

Schools were also well-represented at the event, as Kris Johnson, an SD83 mental health coordinator and Lyle Chapman, Eagle River Secondary principal, discussed the changes they’ve seen in schools and with students personally. Both mentioned a more casual attitude towards drugs in recent years and more of an openness to discuss topics related to previously illegal substances.

Laurie Weber, a recovering addict, spoke of her gratitude for the help she got and shared her personal experience needing total abstinence to get sober, saying safe drug supplies without consequences are making matters worse.

Rich said turnout was great and the group hopes to put on another event. She also told of a friends’ daughter in the community who overdosed recently who was “the brightest kid in the room” and a big reason for her passion for this topic.

“We need more help in the community, and we need education,” said Rich.

The full meeting can be viewed on the DOS Youtube channel.

READ MORE: Sicamous council supports preliminary site plan for new seniors housing facility

Rebecca Willson

About the Author: Rebecca Willson

I took my first step into the journalism industry in November 2022 when I moved to Salmon Arm to work for the Observer and Eagle Valley News. I graduated with a journalism degree in December 2021 from MacEwan University in Edmonton.
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