SURREY — Mayor Linda Hepner says a partnership just signed with Statistics Canada will mean Surrey will soon know more about who is overdosing in the city, and where.
“It will bring together federal, provincial and municipal data for Surrey in a way that’s never been done to date,” Hepner told the Now-Leader. “Statistics Canada, with their statistical expertise and all the robust data sets they have, we’re going to shape approaches for intervention and support.”
Hepner said Surrey is the first municipality in Canada to sign such a partnership with Statistics Canada amid the opioid overdose epidemic.
It will mean a “much better understanding of the demographic,” she said.
“Are there opportunities for intervention at the school level? Are there issues around health? Is it a pain-related issue? Are issues poverty related? We will be able to create primary risk factors and create a much better understanding of the characteristics of those most at risk.”
Surrey Fire Service data will be utilized, she noted, to learn exactly where overdoses are happening.
The new program’s working group is in place, Hepner added, and they will “work quickly.”
An average of 15 people have died of overdose each month in Surrey in 2017.
In all, 123 people have been killed by illicit drugs in the city so far this year, as of the end of August.
The death toll in Surrey peaked in May, with 21 deaths that month.
Thirteen people died in January, 15 in February, 14 in March, 12 in April, 13 in June, 17 in July and 18 in August.
Surrey’s drug death toll this year is second only to Vancouver, which has seen 255 people killed so far this year.
Meantime, B.C. has hit a record number of illicit overdose deaths.
In all, 1,013 people in B.C. have died as a result of the overdose crisis in 2017, which is 83 more than the total death toll in all of 2016.
The Coroners Service says 88.5 per cent of all drug overdose deaths happened inside and 11 per cent outside or in vehicles.
— Kat Slepian (@katslepian) October 12, 2017
In August, the latest numbers available from the BC Coroners Service, 113 people are suspected to have died of drug overdose, which equates to about 3.6 deaths per day for the month.
The August deaths are a 79 per cent increase over the same month in 2016.
-With files from Katya Slepian