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

Rotary Club launches Fernie wide scavenger hunt

The City Ramble Trail Scramble encourages participants to explore Fernie’s trails and streets

City of Fernie recycles old concrete

Hadean Aggregate Solutions was in Fernie for three days recycling old concrete and asphalt

MP Morrison pushes for accountability following federal fiscal update

Kootenay-Columbia parliamentarian says it is time to restart the economy

UPDATED: Interior Health to add 495 long-term seniors care beds

Nelson, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton to receive new facilities

No changes coming to Fernie’s Second Avenue

Following a public survey, council holds off on repurposing Second Avenue

Recent surge in COVID-19 cases not unexpected amid Phase Three of reopening: B.C.’s top doc

Keep circles small, wear masks and be aware of symptoms, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

Baby raccoon rescued from 10-foot deep drainage pipe on Vancouver Island

‘Its cries were loud, pitiful and heartbreaking,’ Saanich animal control officer says

Statistical flaws led to B.C. wolf cull which didn’t save endangered caribou as estimated

Study finds statistical flaws in an influential 2019 report supporting a wolf cull

Windows broken, racist graffiti left on Okanagan home

Family says nothing like this has happened since they moved to Summerland in 1980s

B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’ charged with sex assault of teenage boys

The man, 75, is accused of assaulting teenage boys he met through Coquitlam-area churches

B.C.’s potential deficit $12.5 billion as spending spikes, taxes drop

Finance Minister Carole James gives COVID-19 outlook

Commercial huckleberry harvesting restricted in Kootenays

The province of B.C. has banned commercial-scale picking from July 15 to October 15

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit

Most Read