BC Coroners Service reports increase in drug overdose deaths in March, April

BC Coroners Service reports increase in drug overdose deaths in March, April
Photo courtesy CBC.
 The BC Coroners Service has unveiled that deaths as a result of illicit drug toxicity has increased in the province over the past two months.

The BC Coroners Service has unveiled updated data on drug overdoses and fentanyl-detected drug deaths through the end of April 2020 and the reports show an average of 3.2 illicit drug toxicity deaths per day through the first four months of 2020.

“We remain in a public health emergency, with more than three British Columbians dying each day from illicit drug toxicity deaths,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “Illicit drug toxicity death rates in B.C. are still the highest for any jurisdiction in Canada. Every region in B.C. has been impacted.

In March, the overdose totals reported were 112, while in April, the total number hit 117.

“Recent efforts to improve access to safe supply in B.C. are encouraging, and the BC Coroners Service supports the continued enhancement of this critical life-saving measure. We continue to recommend a regulated, evidence-based, supportive treatment and recovery system as an important pillar in preventing future deaths,” said Lapointe.

According to the BC Coroners Service, the monthly totals in March and April mark the first time the province has recorded over 100 overdose deaths in back-to-back months since November and December 2018.

The 117 suspected toxicity deaths in April 2020 mark a 39 per cent increase from the monthly total in 2019 (84). Factoring in the April statistics, the total number of illicit drug deaths in 2020 has reached 382. The BC Coroners Service breaks that down to be 22 deaths per 100,000 individuals in 2020.

The BC Coroners Service adds that Victoria is one of the cities experiencing the highest overdose death rates so far this year, alongside Vancouver and Surrey.

Also, 71 per cent of those dying were between the ages of 19 and 49. Males accounted for 79 per cent of 2020’s deaths to date as well, both increases from 2019.

The BC Coroners Service did note that no deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites so far in 2020.

Last week, the BC Government announced that they had moved over 300 vulnerable citizens in Victoria from the Topaz Park and Pandora encampments into temporary safe housing. The government has said each of these locations include wraparound services like drug prevention sites.

The Provincial Health Services Authority has also recently launched a new ‘Lifeguard app’ to help prevent overdoses, meant to serve as a resource to help reduce risks for people who use substances.



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