Three Island communities have equalled or surpassed number of drug deaths from last year

Three Island communities have equalled or surpassed number of drug deaths from last year
A used naloxone kit is seen on the sidewalk as paramedics from B.C. Ambulance respond to a drug overdose in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, June 23, 2021.

In August, the number of deaths due to unregulated drugs decreased from the month prior, but some Island communities have already equalled or surpassed the number of unregulated drug deaths total in 2022.

According to B.C.’s coroner, 174 people died in the province in August due to unregulated drugs which amounts to 5.6 deaths per day. This brings the total number for the year to 1,645.

“We are continuing to lose members of our communities in heartbreaking numbers as a result of the toxicity of the illicit drug market,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.

“No town, neighbourhood or family is immune from this crisis and as the years of this public-health emergency go by, more and more British Columbians are experiencing the devastating loss of a friend, colleague or family member to the illicit-drug supply.”

In July, 203 people died due to unregulated drugs reflecting a 14 per cent decrease in August, and in August 2022, there were 190 deaths, reflecting an eight per cent decrease from the year before.

However, on the Island, Greater Campbell River (31) and Southern Gulf Islands (4) have had the same number of unregulated drug deaths by August compared to all of 2022, while Greater Nanaimo has surpassed its deaths from 2022, with 86 so far this year compared to 84 last year.

In all of Island Health, there have been a total of 304 deaths with 26 people dying in August.

Central Vancouver Island continues to see the most number of deaths on the Island, with 146 people dying in Central Vancouver Island so far in 2023, 103 in South Vancouver Island and 55 in North Vancouver Island.

Greater Victoria has seen the highest number of deaths on the Island, with 89 occurring so far in 2023.

Unregulated drugs are the leading cause of death for British Columbians aged 10 to 58, accounting for more deaths than homicides, suicides, accidents and natural diseases combined, according to the coroner.

“The relentlessness and scale of this public-health crisis requires a proportionate response,” Lapointe said.

“The BC Coroners Service continues to recommend urgent, collaborative action on the part of ministries and health authorities to co-ordinate a provincewide continuum of care that saves lives. Improvements in the quality and reach of harm reduction and evidence-based treatment services are essential, as is the critical need to ensure that those at risk of dying can access safer, regulated drugs. If we cannot implement these changes, our loved ones will continue to die.”

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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