The global pandemic of 2020 made the already deadly overdose crisis even worse.
The year 2020 is on track to be the worst on record for overdose deaths, in Chilliwack and other cities in B.C., according to the list of “suspected illicit-drug toxicity deaths” from the BC Coroners Service reports.
Heading into the summer months, health officials were desperately trying to warn anyone who would listen that the number of people dying from overdose deaths was spiking due to an extremely toxic supply.
The triple whammy of drug supply toxicity, people using alone, and the never-ending stigmatization of drug addiction, proved to be fatal over and over.
There were already 34 tragic deaths in Chilliwack recorded in the official statistics by the end of November. It will almost certainly be comparable to the worst year on record, 2018, when there were 37 overdose deaths.
The year isn’t over yet but the suspected overdose deaths were already higher at the end of November than in some of the worst years on record. The Fraser East region had 109 suspected overdose deaths by the end of last month, compared to 98 in all of 2018, according to BC Coroner Service stats.
To compare with nearby cities, Abbotsford saw 59 drug-toxicity deaths to the end of November 2020, while Surrey suffered 189. Langley had 35 and Maple Ridge saw 31.
Provincial health officials were urging “extreme caution” in their messaging for those who used during the dual health emergencies of the pandemic and overdose crisis.
A short documentary released in June 2020 made the salient point that the overdose crisis was in fact allowed to continue “unabated and largely undiscussed” during the pandemic.
The powerful short film, Á:ylexw tel Th’á:á (Calling of the Heart), warns viewers with an urgent soundtrack: “We’re having an overdose crisis, right here and now in our own community.” It was released on the Stólō Services Agency Facebook pages where lots of timely info gets released.
The idea for the documentary was Jade Black’s, as the Overdose Awareness Education Network coordinator for Stólō Services Agency she saw it as a way to get people talking. She had specific hopes of reaching viewers with facts that might jar some people out of complacency, and out of shame cycles that keep people silent.
That it would lead to more open discussion and “reframing” of how people perceive addiction and overdose risk in Stólō territory and beyond.
“It is my hope that those who are struggling with opioid use will seek medical care, resources and supports to confidently begin on their own healing journey,” Black said.
“It is my hope that we can further normalize the conversation and experience of coping with substances/opioids and start focusing on solution-focused responses to the current opioid crisis.
“It is my hope that the video calls to the hearts of the people in this community and provokes them to change how they support, love and hold space for those struggling with addiction.”
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