The powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl continues to be linked to approximately 60 per cent of fatalities in B.C. this year.

The powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl continues to be linked to approximately 60 per cent of fatalities in B.C. this year.

Opinion: Action on opioids needed

High level meetings in Ottawa this week about the opioid crisis in Canada need to move beyond talk and into action.

Any hopes that the current opioid crisis gripping Chilliwack and the rest of the province has eased were dashed this week with the release of the latest numbers from the BC Coroners Service.

According to figures released Wednesday, 622 people died in the first 10 months of this year. That’s 225 more deaths than the 397 reported at this time last year.

The latest stats underline the role fentanyl is playing in this crisis. Roughly 60 per cent of the reported deaths have been linked to synthetic opioid – said to be many times more powerful than heroin or morphine.

The Fraser Health Region, of which Chilliwack is a part, had the most fatalities. And although specific numbers for this city were not released, the death toll in neighbouring Abbotsford has reached 28.

The news comes amid growing concern over opioid use across Canada and throughout the United States. Earlier this week three people were found dead in Winnipeg; Fentanyl is believed to be responsible.

On Friday, health ministers were meeting in Ottawa to discuss a national strategy to address the alarming rise in overdose deaths.

One of the loudest calls is for tougher measures to prevent fentanyl from coming into Canada from countries like China.

Other strategies include limiting the availability of the tools like pill presses used in the production of the drug.

There will also likely be calls on the federal government to ease restrictions on the supervised injection sites. Fraser Health has identified several communities that could host the facilities, but changes to federal legislation have been delayed.

Whatever actions the two levels of government take, they need to work swiftly.

With two people dying on average ever 24 hours in B.C., the time for polite discussions is over.