Saturday, March 18, 2017 



Drug Overdose Numbers Drop
Programs and trained responders one reason

BC Gov't Caucus/Voice file photo


An overdose victim is take to CGH in March 2016.


he number of illicit drug deaths in BC decreased slightly for the second month in a row but is still far higher than for the same period last year.

Provisional data from the BC Coroners Service shows that a total of 102 persons died as a result of illicit drug use during the month of February, an average of more than seven deaths every two days. In contrast, there were 59 illicit drug-related deaths in February 2016.

Individuals aged 30-39 and 40-49 years have accounted for the largest percentage of illicit drug overdose deaths during the first two months of 2017. Consistent with last year’s data, males accounted for 83.1% of these suspected illicit drug overdose deaths.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe continued to urge extreme vigilance by those using illicit substances: “While I’m very relieved to see that the numbers have not continued to increase over the last two months, we are still losing cherished members of our communities at a terrible rate. People are dying in far higher numbers than we’ve ever seen, and a slight decrease in fatalities from the previous month should not be seen as any indication that the risk has decreased.” 

Lapointe also noted that 89% of illicit drug overdose deaths occurred inside (the majority in private residences) and that there have been no deaths at a supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention site, “This is evidence that these sites are saving lives. People need to be encouraged to visit these sites as the majority of deaths are occurring when people use illicit substances without medical attention or assistance nearby.”

The BC Coroners Service continues to work with the B.C. government’s Joint Task Force on Overdose Response and with health, community and law enforcement agencies to try to reduce this death toll.

The updated report on illicit drug deaths can be found here.

Updated statistics released today from the BC Coroners Service show the number of illicit drug overdose deaths decreased slightly in February. Since the public-health emergency was declared in April 2016, government and its partners have enacted a wide range of measures to make an immediate difference and continue to build on longer-term strategies.

New items since the last provincial update on Feb. 17, 2017 include:

The Province is providing approximately $13 million to health authorities to help ease financial pressures resulting from the actions taken to respond to the overdose crisis over the past year. This includes costs related to overdose prevention sites, preparing for additional supervised consumption services, enhanced surveillance, and expanding opioid substitution treatments.

On March 17, 2017, the Ministry of Health released the fourth progress report on B.C.’s response to the overdose crisis here.

On March 17, 2017, the BC Centre for Disease Control issued the second report on B.C.’s public health emergency summarizing available information being collected across the province on overdoses and overdose deaths here.

Since Dec. 8, 2016, more than 20 overdose prevention sites across the province have had more than 66,000 visits and reversed more than 480 overdoses, with zero deaths.

The RCMP and municipal police departments have used naloxone in nearly 100 overdose reversals since the beginning of the program.

Since Dec. 13, 2016, the province’s Mobile Medical Unit stationed in the Downtown Eastside has treated more than 2,100 patients, including more than 500 patients for overdose, relieving pressure on local emergency departments and paramedics and providing patients with quick, easy access to opioid substitution therapy such as Suboxone.

On March 1, 2017, Vancouver Coastal Health opened the new Connections Clinic in the Downtown . Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Connections Clinic on March 3, 2017 and met with people on the front lines of B.C.’s overdose crisis.

On Feb. 24, 2017, mayors of Canada's largest cities and federal cabinet ministers pledged to work together on the overdose crises.

On Feb 23, 2017, the Ministry of Health distributed guidelines to providers of supportive housing and homeless shelters to help guide them in the preventative actions they can take to reduce overdose fatalities in their facilities:

On Feb. 22, 2017, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research issued an RFP as part of its work to support BC’s Joint Task Force on Overdose Prevention and Response with an ongoing evaluation of the province’s response to the opioid overdose crisis.

The first phase of this work includes a review of how other jurisdictions have responded to opioid overdose deaths – particularly those jurisdictions that have experienced fentanyl. The findings will inform both B.C.’s ongoing response here. On Feb. 20, 2017, the province announced $140 million to improve access, target key mental-health initiatives. As part of this, a new mental-health digital hub was launched to make it easier for thousands of British Columbians to find the services and supports closest to them.

The federal government has established the Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses, which includes Dr. Bonnie Henry, deputy provincial health officer; Clayton Pecknold, director of police services and co-chair of B.C.’s Joint Task Force on Overdose Response; and Dr. Evan Adams, chief medical health officer, First Nations Health Authority.

Since Oct. 1, 2016 the BC Centre on Substance Use hosted 20 training events with more than 1,000 health care providers on how best to treat patients who have an opioid addiction.

As of March 5, 2017, 32,858 no-charge naloxone kits have been distributed – almost 22,000 of them in 2016 and 5,500 so far this year. Take-home naloxone kits are now available at 476 locations in B.C., including 58 emergency departments and 10 corrections facilities and 69 First Nations site serving 96 communities:

The First Nations Health Authority has held six overdose townhalls, including Tla’Amin, Musqueum, Cape Mudge, Tsleil-Waututh, First Nations Summit, and Strathcona. They are also working to share journeys with substance use and opioid substitution therapy:
The RCMP and independent municipal police departments continue to work towards completing training for administering naloxone to reverse overdose, with nearly 7,000 police and civilian staff trained so far.

Police continue to reach out to their communities. On March 6, 2017, Kamloops RCMP hosted a drug information session focused on how to keep teenagers safe from drugs and a criminal lifestyle.
Significant local enforcement announcements since the previous update include:
New Westminster Police Department seize $25,000 worth of street drugs and arrest three people:
Kelowna RCMP seize illegal drugs from driver passed out behind the wheel.
RCMP Federal Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement Response Team (CLEAR) shuts down sophisticated drug lab operating near Rock Creek:

Learn more:

To learn more about how to prevent an overdose, please visit here.

To learn more about additional government actions to reduce overdoses, please visit here.

To learn more about Coroners Service statistics on illicit drug overdose deaths, please visit here.

To learn more about the BC Coroners Service statistics on fentanyl-detected illicit drug overdose deaths, please visit here.

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