Specialized coroners unit to probe drug deaths

Following recent government funding, the BC Coroners Service has formed a new investigation team to combat illicit drug overdoses.

The BC Coroners Service has formed a specialized investigation team to combat the growing numbers of illicit drug overdose deaths in the province.

The announcement of a new Coroners Service Drug Death Investigation Team was made by chief coroner Lisa Lapointe Tuesday morning, as a way to provide enhanced investigations into accidental illicit drug deaths, and to identify trends and patterns to support prevention efforts.

“Along with our health, community and law enforcement partners, the BC Coroners Service has been deeply concerned about the rising number of illicit drug deaths in our province,” Lapointe said.

According to most recent coroners statistics, 555 B.C. residents have died between January and September from illicit drug overdoses – surpassing the 508 lives lost to drug overdoses in all of 2015.

The team’s work will be funded as part of the $10 million announced by Premier Christy Clark last month.

During Tuesday’s announcement, Lapointe also said there will be a public inquest into the death of Brandon Juhani Jansen in the New Year.

Jansen, 20, of Coquitlam, died while a resident at a substance-abuse treatment centre in Powell River in the early morning hours of March 7.

“A public inquest will provide another avenue to explore some of the issues we have found arising in these deaths and, it is hoped, for a well-informed jury to make practical and useful recommendations to help prevent similar deaths in the future,” Lapointe said.

At the inquest, set for Jan. 16, 2017, presiding coroner Michael Egilson and a jury will hear evidence from witnesses under oath to determine the facts surrounding this death.

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