April 15, 2016
Gov't says overdoses a problem
with 474 deaths in 2015
Perry Kendall, Provincial Health Officer
increase in drug-related overdoses and deaths has prompted provincial health
officer Dr. Perry Kendall to declare a public health emergency.
This is the first time the provincial health
officer has served notice under the Public Health Act to exercise emergency
powers. B.C. is the first province to take this kind of action in response
to the current public health crisis from drug overdoses. The action will
allow medical health officers throughout the province to collect more
robust, real-time information on overdoses in order to identify immediately
where risks are arising and take proactive action to warn and protect people
who use drugs.
“The recent surge in overdoses is a huge concern for us,” said Health
Minister Terry Lake. “We have to do what’s needed to prevent overdoses and
deaths, and what’s needed is real-time information. Medical health officers
need immediate access to what’s happening and where so they can deploy the
necessary strategies to prevent these tragedies.”
First responders revive a mans suspected of an
opiate or fentanyl overdose two weeks ago. (Voice photo)
The new powers enacted by the provincial health officer provide one more
tool in the robust provincial strategy to address this public health crisis.
Currently information on overdoses is only reported if someone dies, and
there is some delay in the information.
“Health authorities have consistently asked for more data that will help
inform responses and prevent future overdoses,” said Dr. Kendall. “This is
the first step in making that happen. Over the next few weeks, I’ll work
with medical health officers, health authorities, emergency room staff,
paramedics and other first responders and the BC Coroners Service to
determine how best to collect and share the data.”
Information regarding the circumstances of any overdose in the province
where emergency personnel or health care workers respond or provide care
will be reported as quickly as possible to the regional health authorities’
medical health officers. This is expected to include location, the drugs
used and how they were taken. The information will be reported for both
fatal overdoses and overdoses where the person recovers.
This information will help prevent future overdoses and deaths by better
targeting outreach, bad drug warnings, awareness campaigns and distribution
of naloxone training and kits. It will help health care workers connect with
vulnerable communities and provide take-home naloxone to the people who need
it. The information will be collected by the provincial health officer and
analyzed at a provincial level by the BC Centre for Disease Control to
better inform management of this public health crisis.
Dr. Kendall consulted B.C.’s information and privacy commissioner prior to
giving notice of this action under the Public Health Act, and will continue
to consult on plans to collect information. The information collected will
be protected as confidential medical records.
• There were 474 apparent illicit drug overdose deaths in 2015,
which is a 30% increase in deaths from 2014 (365 deaths).
• There were 76 deaths in January 2016, which is the largest
number of deaths in a single month since at least 2007.
• At the current rate in 2016, without additional steps to
combat overdoses, B.C. could see 600 to 800 overdose deaths this
• The increase in the proportion of illicit drug overdose deaths
for which fentanyl was detected (alone or in combination with
other drugs) :
2012 = 5%
2013 = 15%
2014 = 25%
2015 = 31% (approximate - not all investigations are
For more information on the Take Home Naloxone program, please visit:
For addition statistics on overdose deaths see:
BC Coroners Service –
Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths in B.C. Jan. 1, 2007 – Feb. 29, 2016
The Valley Voice
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