It was a chaotic weekend in Whalley, where there were five times the number of opioid overdoses on Saturday and Sunday than are typically seen.
On 135A Street, known as The Strip, 10 people had to receive life-saving Naloxone (Narcan) to prevent death from opioid overdoses. Service providers say it’s a dark sign given the timing.
This Wednesday is known as Welfare Wednesday, when people living on the street typically receive their monthly social assistance cheques. Historically, drug overdoses go up on that day.
Given the spike Nov. 19-20, service providers are worried there may be many more to come as pay day approaches.
“This one could be heavy duty,” one service provider told The Leader.
The news comes as the B.C. Coroners Service announced stark figures on drug overdoses for the province, – largely caused by the deadly narcotic fentanyl, a drug 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
In October, overdoses claimed another 63 lives across B.C., the highest monthly death toll since April.
The total deaths reported by the B.C. Coroners Service now stands at 622 for the year up to the end of October, up markedly from the 397 deaths in the same 10 months of 2015.
The powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl continues to be linked to approximately 60 per cent of fatalities this year – 332 cases in all to date or three times as many as the same period last year.
More than one-third of the total overdose deaths this year – 211 – have happened in the Fraser Health region, compared to 147 in Vancouver Coastal, 120 on Vancouver Island and 108 in the Interior.
The top cities where deaths have occurred so far this year are Vancouver (124), Surrey (76), Victoria (51), Kelowna (37), Kamloops (31), Abbotsford (28) and Maple Ridge (24).
Two overdose deaths occurred in White Rock this past weekend, and police say one is confirmed connected to fentanyl. Staff Sgt. Daryl Creighton said both victims were male.
The first man died shortly before 11 a.m. on Saturday. Creighton said a surviving user told police the pair believed the substance they were taking was a combination of heroin and cocaine.
The second man – described as a suspected heroin user – died early Monday morning, and fentanyl is suspected, Creighton said.
A multi-prong response strategy has been underway since the province declared a public health emergency in April and created a dedicated task force in July.
Efforts include making naloxone much more widely available to reverse overdoses in progress.
The strategy also aims to block fentanyl production and distribution, increase harm-reduction options, foster greater public education and increase the number of addiction recovery beds.
Officials from B.C. will attend a federal opioid conference in Ottawa starting Friday to explore strategies to counter overdose deaths. That comes a day after Premier Christy Clark leads a delegation to Ottawa to meet federal officials on other potential government actions.
Vancouver Coastal Health has applied for federal approval of two new supervised drug consumption sites, with three more in the works, while Island Health is seeking public feedback ahead of an application for sites in Victoria.
~ with files from Jeff Nagel and Tracy Holmes