The latest drug-overdose statistics from the B.C. Coroners Service reveal an increasingly clear picture: more than 100 fatal overdoses each month is the new normal for British Columbia.
1000s of lives lost to crisis – BC News
The coroners latest batch of monthly data, released today (November 14), covers up to the end of September 2018. It shows that that month, there were 128 overdose deaths across the province.
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Then, in November 2016, there were 142 overdose deaths. Since that month, there have only been two months—September and October 2017—when less than 100 deaths were recorded in B.C.
The number of fatal overdoses in B.C. each month is no longer increasing. But it remains above 100 deaths per month and not far below the provinces all-time high of 160 deaths recorded in both March 2018 and December 2016.
During the first nine months of this year, 1,143 people in B.C. died after taking illicit drugs. That puts the province on track for a projected 1,524 deaths by the end of 2018.
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On September 23, the Straight reported that B.C.s epidemic of drug-overdose deaths is now so severe that illicit narcotics are single-handedly responsible for dragging down the average life expectancy for the population of the entire province.
“Recent data from B.C. show that life expectancy dropped by 0.12 year from 2014 to 2016 due to deaths involving substances, with over 90% of these related to opioids,” reads an October 23 report by Canadas chief public-health officer. “This dip in life expectancy was more pronounced in men and in poorer neighbourhoods.”
Todays B.C. Coroners Service report follows the November 13 publication of a Statistics Canada analysis that looks at socioeconomic characteristics of B.C. residents who died of an illicit-drug overdose between 2011 and 2016.
“While the drug overdose crisis has affected all provinces and territories, the crisis has been most acute in British Columbia, where most illicit drug overdose deaths have occurred,” is begins.
“Analysis of this fatal overdose cohort indicate that those dying from preventable illicit drug overdoses in British Columbia are a diverse population,” the document continues. “This group includes both people who had not been in contact with the hospital, employment, social income assistance or justice systems in the years prior to their fatal overdose, as well as those who had. This highlights the need for a diverse plan of action when attempting to identify potential points of intervention around preventable fatal overdoses.”
“One-third of people who fatally overdosed in British Columbia…who had had contact with police died within three months of the contact,” the report adds.
Concerning income and employment, the Statistics Canada analysis paints a diverse portrait of those who have died after taking drugs in B.C.
“In British Columbia, 26% of people who died from an illicit drug overdose were employed in each of the five years prior to death,” it reads. “In contrast, 34% of people who died from an illicit drug overdose in British Columbia had no earnings over this same time period.”
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The report notes that people earning lower incomes appear to be disproportionately affected by B.C.s overdose crisis.
“People in British Columbia who were employed in the year prior to their fatal overdose earned, on average, $28,437 that year,” it reads. “By comparison, workers in British Columbia reported an average employment income of $42,000 in 2016.”
The B.C. government declared a public-health emergency in relation to overdose deaths on April 14, 2016.
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An educational pamphlet and samples of naloxone, a drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdose, are displayed on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 . (AP / Elise Amendola)
VANCOUVER — The latest figures from the BC Coroners Service show 128 people died of illicit-drug overdoses in September, an eight per cent increase from the previous month.
The figure released Wednesday also reveals a marked increase in fatalities from the same month a year ago, when 93 people overdosed in the province.
Men have accounted for 80 per cent of the 1,143 deaths so far this year, with the opioid fentanyl responsible for the vast majority of them, the service said. Cocaine and methamphetamine also figured prominently in the number of illicit-drug deaths since 2016.
Vancouver city council was expected to hear a motion Wednesday evening on newly elected Mayor Kennedy Stewarts intention to appoint an opioid emergency task force that would review the factors driving opioid dependency and to advise council on possible interventions.
Coun. Melissa De Genova of the Non-partisan association, which is one of four parties that make up Vancouvers council, asked for provincial funding for the opioid crisis, a motion that passed with a unanimous vote at a meeting on Tuesday.
Sarah Blyth, who ran unsuccessfully as an independent candidate for council, co-founded an illegal supervised injection site in the Downtown Eastside in 2016, when a record 615 people fatally overdosed.
She said Vancouver doesnt need another task force but should instead start implementing some of the recommendations from previous ones along with information from community action teams in B.C., where provincial and municipal representatives as well as drug users and citizens have provided input.
"Its an absolute emergency," Blyth said. "On and on with task forces for years is getting a bit frustrating."
Last year, former Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson headed a task force involving mayors from 12 other cities across Canada and asked for leadership on the "national emergency" of overdoses by ensuring provinces provide timely access to addiction treatment.
The task force, which was part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, also called for prescription heroin for people who have not responded to other forms of intervention. Vancouver has the only such clinic in Canada but it accepts a limited number of patients.
Data from a federal task force on opioid deaths said nearly 4,000 Canadians died as a result of overdoses in 2017, a 34-per-cent jump from the previous year.
Blyth said she believes decriminalization is a key recommendation from task forces on combating the overdose crisis so users have a safe supply of drugs that is not contaminated with fentanyl or other fillers.
"With the crisis weve realized fentanyl is not the only thing thats damaging. There are other things. Theres pig dewormer, rat poisoning, cement," she said, adding laundry detergent and other cleaning products also end up in drugs sold on the street.
Officials in cities including Vancouver and Toronto have also called for decriminalization as the number of overdose deaths increase, with Statistics Canada saying Tuesday that 10 Canadians fatally overdosed each day between 2016 and 2018.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wouldnt support decriminalization during a visit to B.C. in September 2017 while the provinces mental health and addictions minister, Judy Darcy, called the unprecedented number of deaths last year a "wake-up call" that should lead to a reconsideration of the federal governments position.