B.C. chief coroner Lisa Lapointe speaks to reporters in Victoria, B.C. on Feb. 7., about the nearly 1,500 overdose deaths that occurred in 2018. (Keri Coles/Black Press Media)

B.C. opioid overdoses still killing four people a day, health officials say

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for clean alternative to fentanyl-contaminated street drugs

A staggering 1,489 people died from a drug overdose in B.C. last year.

That’s roughly four people dying per day, across all corners of the province, the B.C. Coroner Service said in a news conference Thursday.

In 2017, there were 1,486 lives lost across the province, which has seen the lion’s share of the overdose crisis nationwide.

Speaking to reporters at the B.C. legislature in Victoria, the province’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe called the illicit drug supply on the streets unpredictable and unmanageable.

“The almost 1,500 deaths in B.C. in 2018 due to illicit drug overdoses far outweigh the numbers of people dying from motor vehicle incidents, homicides and suicides combined,” she said.

“Innovative and evidence-based approaches are necessary if we want to effect meaningful change and stop the dying. We need to be prepared to do things differently to save lives.”

According to data compiled through toxicology reports, fentanyl was detected in 85 per cent of all deaths last year, up from 82 per cent in 2017.

Nearly five times as many men died compared to women.

READ MORE: New in-depth report sheds light on who in BC is dying of drug overdoses

READ MORE: B.C. opioid crisis to get same world-renowned treatment approach as HIV/AIDS

The three townships to see the brunt of the crisis were Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria – unchanged from the year before.

Also for a second year, not a single death happened at an overdose prevention site or safe consumption site.

Overdose deaths by city
Infogram

Health officials renew call for decriminalization of drugs

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said in a statement that the province is using “every possible available tool” to curb the deaths.

She said that 4,700 deaths have been averted since introducing a number of strategies, including the provincial overdose mobile response team.

On Thursday, B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry joined in on renewing calls made previously by advocates and officials – including Lapointe – for Ottawa to legislate access to clean drugs.

“If we’re going to turn the corner on this complex crisis, we need to find the ways to provide safer alternatives to the unregulated and highly-toxic drug supply and to end the stigma associated with criminalization of people who use drugs,” she said.

READ MORE: Most fatal overdose victims did not have recent police contact, Stats Canada data shows

READ MORE: If feds ease access to prescription heroin, B.C. could see relief, doctor says

Currently, Vancouver-based Crosstown Clinic is only one facility in B.C. that gives clients injectable diacetylmorphine – the active ingredient in heroin.

Since the province declared the overdose crisis a public health emergency in April 2016, the federal government has stated it will not be considering the decriminalization of opioids. Instead, it gave governments the ability to approve overdose prevention sites at a provincial level. Since then, B.C. has opened more than 40 sites. A further six federally-approved safe consumption sites have also opened.

Dr. Evan Wood, executive director with the BC Centre on Substance Use, reiterated the need to end drug prohibition.

“This latest report confirms what those on the front-line already know all too well: this crisis is not slowing down,” said Wood.

“If we’re going to stop overdoses from happening, we urgently need to end the harms caused by prohibition while also implementing upstream responses that address the serious health and social consequences of untreated addiction.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

BC Bus North service extended to September

Transportation ministers have extended the service, which was set to expire at the end of May

Nisga’a leader named UNBC chancellor

Dr. Joseph Arthur Gosnell is the first Indigenous leader to assume the role

Northwest local governments team up to fill in future employment gaps

Around 17,000 jobs will need to be filled in the region over the next eight years

Poetry month sees launch of “Oona River Poems” at Rupert library

Peter Christensen consciously and lovingly documents our physical and psychological landscapes

Lily Swanson celebrates her 90th birthday in Prince Rupert

The Acropolis Manor resident has 22 grandchildren and is a great grandmother to 25 children

Prince Rupert students share portraits of kindness with children in Peru

The Memory Project gives teens a chance to sharpen their art skills and global awareness

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

Canfor curtailing operations across B.C.

Low lumber prices and the high cost of fibre are the cause of curtailment

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Haida youth travels to New York for UN forum on Indigenous issues

Haana Edensaw presented her speech in Xaad Kil, Masset dialect of the Haida language

Female real estate agents warned of suspicious man in Metro Vancouver

The man requests to see homes alone with the female agent, police say

Most Read