BC Centre for Disease Control naloxone kit (Darryl Dick/The Canadian Press)

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

British Columbia’s overdose deaths spiked in March and April reaching the same heights recorded over a year earlier.

The BC Coroners Service says 117 people died last month, matching the number of fatalities in March 2019, followed by a steady decline in deaths every month since then.

However, the service says 112 deaths in March and 117 in April mark the first time since late 2018 that the province has recorded more than 100 fatalities two month in a row.

The service reports 78 deaths in January, and 75 in February this year

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since the B.C. government declared a public health emergency in early 2016.

READ MORE: B.C. sees 60% more overdose deaths in March compared to first two months of 2020

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says efforts since late March to improve access to a safer supply of drugs in B.C. are encouraging but the death rate from illicit drugs is still the highest in Canada.

“We continue to recommend a regulated, evidence-based, supportive treatment and recovery system as an important pillar in preventing future deaths.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has maintained that decriminalization of drugs is not on his agenda.

Since late March, the province has been providing people at risk of overdose with a take-home supply of a prescribed alternative to potentially deadly street drugs over concerns about a more toxic drug supply during the pandemic.

B.C. also launched a free app called Lifeguard last week to help prevent overdose deaths. It serves as a check-in system that requires drug users to respond at certain time intervals in order to relay that they are OK.

It’s meant to be opened by users before they take their dose, the Provincial Health Services Authority says in a release.

After 50 seconds, the app sounds an alarm, prompting drug users to hit a button to stop it.

If they fail to do that, an alarm grows louder and after 75 seconds the app uses a text-to-voice call to alert 911 dispatchers to a potential overdose.

READ MORE: Overdoses ‘sadly normalized’ in British Columbia, says addictions minister

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy says the province is facing down the overdose crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic at the same time so the app is a positive resource for those who use drugs.

“Knowing that the majority of people who use drugs use alone in shelters, hotels, or at home, in addition to the challenges of physical distancing, the Lifeguard app is a new and innovative approach that can directly link people to emergency responders if an overdose does occur,” she says in a release.

Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria have had the highest number of deaths this year, with 71 per cent of fatalities occurring among those aged 19 to 49.

Data from the coroners service show the highest number of fatalities during the first four months of any year since 2010 occurred in 2017, when 556 people died.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

B.C. overdosesDrugs

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Exercise and cancer to be explored via webinar

UFV’s Dr. Iris Lesser to lead Zoom event for cancer patients and supporters

Abbotsford charities see hike in demand for services during pandemic

Archway Food Bank and Salvation Army work hard to help those impacted

What do you think about these seven proposed Abbotsford pot shops?

Council will decide upon four locations for Abbotsford’s first legal cannabis stores

Return-It depot in Abbotsford part of aluminum-can pilot project

Customers won’t have to separate alcohol and non-alcohol cans from each other

Vancouver double homicide leads to arrest in Harrison Hot Springs Wednesday

VPD and RCMP tracked dumped vehicle connected to killings to Chilliwack

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Mayors welcome rideshare expansion to eastern Lower Mainland

As of Thursday, Lyft is now offering service throughout Metro Vancouver

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

B.C. appeals judge’s decision to leave three clubhouses in Hells Angels hands

The province has filed two notices of appeal related to the B.C. Supreme Court decision

Conservation officers relocate Spirit bear known to roam northwestern B.C.

Bear roamed valley north of Terrace for many years

Most Read