Paramedics work to revive someone from an apparent drug overdose in Chilliwack, on June 16, 2017. That year paramedics responded to 487 overdose calls. In 2021, that was up 69% to 821. (Paul Henderson/Chilliwack Progress File)

Paramedics work to revive someone from an apparent drug overdose in Chilliwack, on June 16, 2017. That year paramedics responded to 487 overdose calls. In 2021, that was up 69% to 821. (Paul Henderson/Chilliwack Progress File)

Chilliwack paramedics receive record number of overdose calls in 2021, up 50% since 2020

Calls have nearly tripled since 2015, BCEHS says

Chilliwack paramedics responded to a record 821 overdose calls last year, up 50 per cent from 2020.

According to BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) data released Wednesday (Jan. 12), calls have been steadily rising over the years across the province.

In 2021, BCEHS responded to a record 35,525 overdose calls, up 31 per cent over the year before.

READ MORE: B.C. paramedics receive record number of overdose calls in 2021, up 31% since 2020

The rate of calls by population is higher in Chilliwack and Abbotsford than the provincial rate, but is much lower than the City of Vancouver’s.

Overdoses can be called in by witnesses or through the Lifeguard app, which allows the drug user to record what substances they are taking, their address and set a timer. If the user doesn’t turn off the timer, it will begin to blare – alerting people nearby – and then call 911 for paramedics or firefighters to respond to the address. Police are not alerted.

Provincewide the rate of BCEHS calls for overdose rose steadily from 19,275 in 2016 to the 35,525 in 2021.

In Chilliwack, local paramedics responded to 350 calls for overdose in 2016, 487 in 2017, 558 in 2018, 560 in 2019, 548 in 2020, and 821 in 2021.

Not including November and December, for which the statistics have not yet been released, it was a grim tally of overdose deaths in Chilliwack and across the province.

Between January and October 46 people in Chilliwack died of illegal drug toxicity. That compares to the worst year on record, 2020, that saw 37 overdose deaths.

The death toll across B.C. was similarly grim, with 1,782 deaths up to the end of October, or 344 more than the first 10 months of 2020.

READ MORE: October marked grim milestone across B.C. for record loss of life to overdose

READ MORE: B.C. sees deadliest month of illicit drug crisis with 201 fatal overdoses in October


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