Report shows drug overdose deaths continue to rise in province
The updated statistics from the BC Coroners Service released Wednesday show the number of illicit drug overdose deaths has increased over the month of October.
The BC Coroners Service said for the first 10 months of 2016, the number of illicit drug overdoses was 622, compared to 397 for the same period last year.
The total number of illicit drug deaths in October was 63, up from 57 in September.
There is a trend that continues after a previous report released by the BC Coroners in October that showed there were 555 accidental drug overdose deaths in the province from January through September 2016.
Fentanyl still remains a major contributor to the high number of deaths according to the report.
In 2016, from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, there were a total of 332 cases where fentanyl was found.
This is about 60 per cent of all illicit drug deaths, which is almost triple the number of fentanyl-detected deaths for the same timeframe last year.
Meanwhile, the government continues to take actions on many fronts to prevent and respond to overdoses in B.C.
Later this week, Premier Christy Clark will lead a delegation of people personally affected by overdoses to Ottawa to share their experiences and thoughts on additional actions all levels of government can take. The group will have private meetings with key federal officials on Nov. 17 to share their stories and ideas.
Health Minister Terry Lake, deputy provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, director of police services and co-chair of the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response Clayton Pecknold and other representatives from B.C. including Dr. Evan Wood, interim director of the BC Centre on Substance Use, and Abbotsford Police Department deputy chief Mike Serr will attend the federal Conference on Opioid Overdoses Nov. 18-19 in Ottawa to discuss B.C.’s strategies and help identify additional ways forward at the national level.
Since the last update on Oct. 20, 2016, the following actions have been undertaken:
- Lake and Public Safety Minister Mike Morris along with a delegation of officials and B.C. first responders met with federal Health Minister Jane Philpott on Nov. 9 to provide an update on the province’s public health emergency and discuss additional actions to address the crisis at all levels of government.
- Island Health launched a public feedback process as part of their work on an application for a federal exemption to establish supervised consumption services in Victoria. This follows months of work involving Island Health, the City of Victoria, Victoria Police and YES2SCS – a community campaign advocating for these services.
- Vancouver Coastal Health submitted two applications to Health Canada for additional supervised consumption services, and is working on three more.
- Vancouver Coastal Health launched a new Harm Reduction, Outreach and Overdose Prevention Team in partnership with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users to provide mobile outreach in the high-need areas of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
- The Justice Institute of B.C. launched a fentanyl website for first responders, funded by the provincial government. It provides a comprehensive training resource for first responders with accurate safety information on situations involving opioids.
- In addition to its other health and public safety priorities, the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response continues to work with police and law enforcement to support expanded interdiction efforts including co-ordinating efforts to intercept, detect, and investigate illegally imported fentanyl and precursors. The Canada Border Services Agency has reported some successes in intercepting fentanyl packages entering Canada.
- The Province continues to advocate that the federal government increase penalties under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Criminal Code for those who import and traffic fentanyl and related compounds. Police are requesting sentencing considerations if the file involves trafficking or importation of fentanyl.
- The BC Centre for Disease Control continues to significantly expand the Take Home Naloxone program. More than 15,841 no-charge naloxone kits have been dispensed to date – more than 10,000 this year alone – with reports of almost 2,000 take-home kits being used to reverse opioid overdoses this year. Naloxone kits are now being dispensed at 348 locations in B.C. including 56 emergency departments and four corrections facilities.
- The Take Home Naloxone program will continue the expansion of no-charge naloxone kits, including to any remaining emergency departments, public health units and sites where there are people at risk of overdose but healthcare professionals are not customarily present such as recovery homes and homeless shelters.
The Joint Task Force on Overdose Response released its second progress report on B.C.’s Response to the Opioid Overdose Crisis, available at this link.