Of the 211 people who died of toxic drug overdose B.C. this January, six were in Abbotsford.
The numbers were released this week from the BC Coroners Service, as the opioid epidemic continues.
Looking at other communities across the province, Chilliwack and Kamloops also had six fatal overdoses. Victoria had 11, Surrey had 24 and Vancouver had 61.
Last year was the highest number of fatal overdoses Abbotsford has ever seen, at 88. However, the year before (2021) was comparable at 87.
It’s still a huge increase from 2013 and 2014, which had a combined 17 overdose deaths. That pattern is consistent across all communities in the province, the report shows.
Fentanyl continues to be the most common substance involved in these deaths, at 84.4 per cent. Cocaine contributed to 44.7 per cent.
The News recently asked Fraser Health for information on why Abbotsford’s overdose fatality numbers, while still high, seem to be leveling off over the last two years. They attributed any improvements to local opioid agonist treatment (OAT) efforts, and a mobile overdose prevention service in Abbotsford.
“Stats from the BC Centre on Substance Use demonstrate that people who are using OAT do not overdose from their medication,” said a Fraser Health communications officer. “Therefore they are not contributing to the rise in overdose-related calls in the Abbotsford area.
They added that the monthly coroners reports also confirm that OAT medications are not a contributing factor in overdose deaths in B.C.
“In fact, OAT medications prescribed in a structured, supervised clinical setting play a significant role in preventing overdoses. OAT medications such as methadone, buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone), and slow-release oral morphine (Kadian) act slowly in the body, work to prevent withdrawal and reduce cravings for opioid drugs.”
They attributed the stabilization, if not yet a drop in numbers, to the work at the Fraser East Rapid Acccess to Addiction Care (RAAC) clinic on Simon Avenue in Abbotsford. That clinic is staffed by physicians, nurses, clinical support workers, social workers and group therapists, they said. It serves people who have challenges with alcohol, benzodiazepines, nicotine, stimulants (cocaine, crystal methamphetamine) and opioids by providing low-barrier access to addiction medicine and medication-assisted treatment.
Following an initial consultation, patients may be placed on medication or guided to appropriate services. They are also connected to care providers in the community for ongoing treatment, monitoring and support. People can seek opioid treatment services without a doctor’s referral.
Fraser Health also launched a mobile overdose prevention service in Abbotsford to support people who use substances and help prevent toxic drug poisonings and toxic drug deaths. The mobile overdose prevention site is a specialized service with a customized van, offering witnessed consumption of substances including inhalation.
For more information and resources related to substance use services, visit fraserhealth.ca/substanceuse.