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Overdose death toll rises to 23 in Northeast B.C.

B.C. experiencing record loss of life this year, says Chief Coroner
lisa-lapointe-bc-chief-coroner
Lisa Lapointe, B.C.'s chief coroner, called for decriminalization of drug users and greater access to safe supply to curb the drug poisoning crisis.

Three more people died from an overdose of illicit drugs in Northeast B.C. in October, according to the latest coroners report.

The region’s death toll from illicit drugs this year is now up to 23, according to the latest data, a death rate of 38.1 per 100,000 people.

The three deaths were among a record 201 reported across B.C. in October, or about 6.5 deaths per day. There have been a record 1,782 deaths reported so far this year.

The Coroners Service says more than 8,300 people have now died due to drug toxicity since a public health emergency was declared in April 2016. Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe called the deaths a “devastating loss.”

"Today is a heart-rending milestone for our province," Lapointe said in a statement. "In the sixth year of this public health emergency, we are experiencing a record loss of life and I know this news will resonate with tremendous sadness amongst the thousands of families who have lost a loved one to this crisis.”

 

Across Northern B.C., there have been 113 overdose deaths so far this year, including 56 in the Northern Interior and 34 in the Northwest. Between January and August, there were 13 deaths in the South Peace and 4 in the North Peace, according to the latest available data from the Coroners Service. There was one death in Fort Nelson.

The Coroners Service says preliminary data has found that fentanyl or its analogues have been detected in 84% of all illicit drug toxicity deaths this year. From April 2020 to October 2021, approximately 14% of cases had extreme fentanyl concentrations as compared to 8% from January 2019 to March 2020, according to the Coroners Service.

Men continue to be disproportionately affected, accounting for 79% of illicit drug overdose deaths in the province. In the north, 85.5% of deaths are happening in private residences and other social and supportive housing, according to the coroner's report.

"This is a health crisis," Lapointe said. "I cannot stress enough how urgent this emergency has become. A comprehensive plan to ensure access to safe supply for the thousands of B.C. residents dependent on these substances is essential. Shifting from a punishment and stigmatizing regime to a decriminalized, health-focused model is also a critical step to reduce suffering and save lives."

There were a record 30 fatal overdoses in Northeast B.C. in 2020.


Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca