B.C.’s overdose crisis appears to be seeing much-needed reprieve, according to the latest report from the provincial coroners service.
The promising news, released Friday, comes as B.C. saw 73 fatal overdoses in June – a 35 per cent decrease compared to the same month last year. That marks the lowest number of fatal overdoses since September 2016.
A total of 538 people have been killed by the toxic drug supply, predominately in Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria and Abbotsford; and is 30 per cent less than the death toll during the same time period in 2018, when 763 lives were lost.
This means that about 18 people are dying from illicit drugs every week, down from the roughly 28-per-week average last year.
But while the downward trend is encouraging, the province said the rate remains “unacceptable high.”
In an emailed statement to Black Press Media, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions said: “The overdose crisis continues to take a heartbreaking toll in communities across B.C. with two to three British Columbians dying every day in June due to the unpredictable and toxic drug supply.”
While not one single overdose has ended in death at any overdose prevention site nor safe consumption site in the province to date, frontline workers are still up against an unfathomable amount of illicit drugs.
Illegal fentanyl was detected in four of every five toxicity tests during autopsies this year, according to the coroners service. Carfentanil – used to tranquilize elephants and other large animals – has been found in 49 deaths.
“Our thoughts go out to families grieving the loss of their loved ones throughout the province,” the ministry continued. “We remain committed to escalating our response, so we can save more lives and connect more people to treatment and recovery.”
An estimated 4,700 deaths have been averted due to the distribution of free naloxone kits within the past year and a half, the province added. Other initiatives include opening mobile overdose prevention sites across B.C., expanding access to suboxone treatment and launching collaborative programs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.