Community group believes Oceanside overdose deaths much higher than reported

Dr. Peter Drummond shows a model of the kiosk he hoped to build in Parksville to raise awareness of local overdose deaths. Council turned down his request at its May 17 meeting. || Photo is a screenshot from the March 15 Parksville council meeting.
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A local group wants to build a kiosk displaying the photos of Oceanside residents who have recently died from drug overdoses.

Dr. Peter Drummond said he believes there were at least 40 overdose deaths in Oceanside last year, significantly higher than the 16 noted in last year’s BC Coroners report.

“These are not numbers, they are people — they are young people for the most part,” said Drummond in a presentation to Parksville city council. 

He made a request to build on city property on behalf of Oceanside Community Action Team (OCAT), a provincially funded group seeking to address B.C.’s overdose crisis at the local level.

Drummond said he believes the discrepancy in numbers is caused by coroners determining a death was from natural causes, even when drugs are present in the person’s system. 

“I’m just a physiologist — I’m not a coroner, so I can’t verify that, but this is the suspicion. In any case, the outcome is unacceptable,” he said.

The structure would be be nine feet tall and eight feet wide, with four interior walls to display the photos, according to Drummond. It would also include contact information for people looking for mental health and addictions treatment.

The kiosk would cost about $3,700, but would not cost the city anything because Drummond would build it himself with help from volunteers.

“I think it opens up a lot of good conversation and I think that’s where we need to start, is with the kids, the youngsters — the generation that’s moving up towards the potential of this drug use and hopefully it helps everybody else as well,” said Coun. Mark Chandler.

Drummond suggested a site near the ball park across the highway from Dairy Queen. Coun. Adam Fras proposed instead placing the kiosk at the start of a walking trail at the end of Jensen Avenue, close to Orca Place.

“It’s known that drug deals often happen outside on that street,” said Fras. “I’ve seen it myself in that location too and I would hope that by bringing this kind of information forward it brings a second of sober thought to what the consequences of these actions are.”

Council decided to refer the issue back to staff for more information on the location and possible costs to the city. 

“I’m totally in favour of it,” said Mayor Ed Mayne, who suggested the kiosk could be built for a year to start, but could become permanent if received positively by the community. 

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