The BC Coroners Service says overdose deaths have set a new record for April after 176 people died due to toxic illicit drugs in that month.
The deaths bring the number of lives lost due to overdoses 680 so far this year and are a 43 per cent increase over the number of deaths recorded in April 2020. They are equivalent to 5.9 deaths per day in the month of April.
It’s also the 14th consecutive month in which overdose deaths have exceeded 100.
“The BC Coroners Service’s report for April shows the situation is not getting any better. This is devastating for so many people grieving the loss of their loved ones,” said Minister for Mental Health and Addiction Sheila Malcolmson.
“There are feelings of fear reverberating in communities throughout the province, particularly among families and those working on the front lines of this crisis.”
According to the chief coroner, the areas seeing the highest number of overdose deaths Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria.
“Once again, we’re reminded that the scale of this public health emergency is truly unprecedented,” said B.C. Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe.
“I offer my heartfelt condolences to every family in the province that is experiencing the unimaginable pain of sudden and unexpected loss. Every life lost to toxic drugs in our province is a profound tragedy. Every one of them mattered, and every one of them will be missed.”
B.C.’s drug supply, meanwhile, has been increasing in toxicity as fentanyl was detected in 86 per cent of overdose deaths so far this year, while an even more potent version known as carfentanil was found in 62 samples in 2021 — almost the same number detected in all of 2020.
According to the data, there were four deaths among people under 19 in the month of April.
One of those deaths would have been Grade 6 Saanich student Ally Londono.
The 12-year-old overdosed three times, ending up at Victoria General Hospital, but her fourth overdose, at a friend’s house in Langford on April 14, proved fatal.
Londono’s death has sparked calls for change in the way the health care system handles young people who use drugs.
“I feel like she needed to go into a long-term rehab facility but they didn’t make any for people her age, it’s wrong, because now she died and she’s only 12, they could have helped her I believe,” Londono’s mother told CHEK News.
B.C.’s Children and Youth Representative says most substance use treatment services are designed for older children and teens but there’s no question more is needed.
The coroner noted that none of the deaths that occurred in April were reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.