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

RDCK to implement new emergency alert notification system

System also includes sends alerts for water advisories

From baseball stars to forest fires: Southeast Fire Centre water bomber has an interesting past

Tanker 489 is stationed in Castlegar this year, but in the 1960s it belonged to the L.A. Dodgers.

Traffic finally eases along Arrow Lakes ferry routes

Motorists were stuck for up to six hours in ferry lineups over the weekend

Shoppers Drug Mart launches in-store virtual service at several B.C. stores

The service is now available in 12 rural B.C. communities and will expand province-wide in August

Milestone RCMP Cops For Kids fundraiser ride going virtual

You can join and help RCMP raise funds for families and possibly win 20th anniversary cycling shirt

Horgan says B.C. restart making gains as more people come out of their homes

B.C. announced the easing of more restrictions on businesses, recreation and travel last month

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Lower Mainland YouTubers claim to be Kelowna display toilet ‘poopers’

RCMP can not speak to legitimacy of video, will be investigating

Haida matriarchs occupy ancient villages as fishing lodges reopen to visitors

‘Daughters of the rivers’ say occupation follows two fishing lodges reopening without Haida consent

Conservatives say police should be called into investigate WE charity scandal

Trudeau is already under investigation by the ethics commissioner for potential conflict of interest

Amber Alert continues for missing Quebec girls, 6 and 11, and their father

Police issued the alert for Norah Carpentier, 11, and Romy Carpentier, 6, from Levis, Que.

Limit police access to lethal weapons in Indigenous communities: Justice Summit

Grassroots-organized National Indigenous Justice Summit was a free-to-attend two-day videoconference

Most Read