Fentanyl testing strips are now available to locals in the harm reduction boxes across Cortes Island as a tool for reducing harm amongst drug users, local RN Isabelle Laplante says.

The boxes are located at the health clinic in Mansons Landing, the Squirrel Cove General Store, Mansons Hall, and the Gorge Hall in Whaletown.

These harm reduction boxes were first introduced to the community in June of 2022 as a way of minimizing stigma and increasing access to materials that can reduce harm. Things like condoms, naloxone kits, and lube are free for the taking in these public boxes. Leplante notes that the boxes have been “really well utilized.” The fentanyl test strips give locals another accessible tool that can aid in the toxic drug crisis.

The BC Coroners Service reported 2,383 deaths in 2022 caused by drug overdose, at the time, which was the deadliest year of the crisis. By August 2023, the death toll exceeded the rate of 2022, with a death toll of 1,645 deaths compared to 1,551 deaths by August 2022. Since 2016, when the opioid crisis was declared a public health emergency in BC, over 12,000 lives have been lost to drug overdoses.

Laplante is working with local paramedics and the Cortes Community Health Association to add more types of testing strips soon.

“I’ll be working on getting some benzodiazepine strips as well, because I think that’s also something that’s pretty common…and it can have some pretty harmful consequences as well.”

To hear more about local harm reduction efforts, listen to the CKTZ News Update below: