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Sparwood backs calls to declare Canadian overdose crisis a national public health emergency

Paramedics across B.C. responded to more overdose calls in 2020 than ever before

District of Sparwood councillors have voted to write a letter asking the Government of Canada to address the ongoing overdose crisis through additional funding.

The district received a letter from the City of Kamloops asking for support from other municipalities in asking the federal government declare the overdose crisis a national public health emergency “so that it is taken seriously and funded appropriately.”

Councillor Amy Cardozo supported the request, saying that “as someone who did once have a drug addition, I can tell you from experience that there is not enough help out there.

“There needs to be more funding, there needs to be more support - writing this letter of support will help do that,” she said.

Councillors voted unanimously for writing a letter of support.

In mid-January, B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) reported that paramedics across the province were responding to more overdoses in 2020 than ever before.

“Amid the pandemic, calls for overdoses spiked, and in July BC Emergency Health Services dispatch staff and paramedics handled the highest number of overdose responses ever recorded in a single month,” said BCEHS in a release.

Overdose numbers for local communities in the Elk Valley were not provided, with a BCEHS spokesperson explaining that they only shared data on communities where there were more than five calls per year. Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford did not exceed that threshold.

But in nearby Cranbrook paramedics responded to 104 overdose calls in 2020. The number of calls in Cranbrook has been increasing yearly since 2016, when there were only 49 calls.

According to the B.C. Coroners Service, in November 2020, there were 153 suspected overdose deaths in the province, or 5.1 deaths per day.

The number represent a drastic 89 per cent increase in the number of deaths over November 2019.

Even without the December numbers, 2020 is only one death short of being the deadliest year on record for the number of overdose-related deaths in the province, at 1,548 between January and November. 1,549 deaths were recorded in 2018. The December 2020 numbers are due to be released in coming days.

READ MORE: Paramedics responding to increased volume of overdose calls
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