BC Centre for Disease Control naloxone kit (Darryl Dick/The Canadian Press)

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

The  8800-block of 140B Street in Surrey, a block northeast of Bear Creek Park. (Google Maps)
Surrey RCMP investigate late-night shooting

Police say officers were called for reports of gunshots heard in the 8800-block of 140B Street

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo: Lauren Collins)
Six classes at four Surrey schools isolating after COVID-19 variants detected

District superintendent says schools given notices about variant exposures Monday night

A memorial to Hudson Brooks outside the South Surrey RCMP detachment. (File photo)
Officer who fatally shot Hudson Brooks recounts ‘absolutely terrifying’ incident

Const. Elizabeth Cucheran testified at coroner’s inquest Tuesday morning

Stephen Gregorig, co-owner of Smugglers’ Trail Caskworks, holds a soon-to-be-filled can of Orion 1-1. Smugglers’ Trail is launching the beer in an effort to raise funds and awareness for Honour House—a home that supports soldiers, veterans, first responders, and their families. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
‘It’s a tip of the cap,’ Smugglers’ Trail Caskworks launches new beer to help support B.C. charity

Sales of Orion 1-1, a poppy-seed IPA, will help raise funds for Honour House

File photo
Surrey council members give themselves a raise in secret meeting

A redacted report was subsequently posted to the city’s website

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland speaks about the Fiscal update during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday November 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID-19: Wage and rent subsidies, lockdown support to be extended until June

Chrystia Freeland says now is not time to lower levels of support

The area on Cordova Bay Road where ancestral human remains were discovered Feb. 22. (Submitted photo)
Human remains discovery a reminder of B.C. Indigenous culture dug up and displaced

‘These are the people who inspired and birthed the generations that we now have here’

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

Most Read