Another 37 lives have been lost to B.C.’s toxic drug supply in the Fraser North Health Service Delivery Area (HSDA) region this year, including five more deaths in Coquitlam.
The BC Coroners Service released its first-quarter statistics for unregulated drug deaths on Monday.
There have been 596 deaths recorded in B.C. this year, the second-highest total ever for the first three months of the year, and three fewer deaths than the same period in 2022, said Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s chief coroner.
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She said recommendations from experts, two death review panels from the coroners service, and a provincial select standing health committee on the crisis have supported using a combination of regulated drug supply, treatment and recovery services to address the issue.
“It is clear that an urgent response to this crisis is required and overdue,” Lapointe said. “Tens of thousands of British Columbians remain at risk of dying from toxic drugs and we continue to experience the tragedy of six people dying every single day, as we have for the past two years.
This is also not a crisis confined to certain neighbourhoods or certain towns. All areas of our province are immensely affected by this crisis, and collaboration, innovation and the rejection of old stereotypes and failed solutions are necessary to prevent future deaths.”
In 2022, 2,272 B.C. residents died from the toxic drug supply, the second largest year on record, slightly behind 2021’s figure.
A total of 32 people died in Coquitlam last year from unregulated drugs, the city’s worst year on record.
There were 53 deaths from the toxic drug supply in the Tri-Cities in 2022, the second worst year on record.
The Fraser North HDSA – which covers the Tri-Cities, New Westminster, Burnaby, and Maple Ridge/ Pitt Meadows – is recording smaller death tolls in the first three months of 2023 than the previous year, however.
By March 31, 2022, 50 deaths had been counted in the Fraser North region; by the year’s end 193 deaths had been recorded.
The Tri-Cities have a death rate of 20.1 people per 100,000 population, the lowest in the HDSA, and the second lowest among all cities under Fraser Health.
The greatest number of deaths continue to occur in Vancouver, Surrey, and Greater Victoria.
Fentantyl has been detected in 78 percent of unregulated drug deaths so far in 2023, significantly less than the previous five years, where it was detected in between 84 and 86 percent of deaths.
The data still shows the majority of people dying from the toxic drug supply are men (77 percent) between the ages of 30 and 59 (71 percent).
Likewise, data continues to show that the vast majority of deaths occur inside (84 percent), nearly half of which are private residences (47 percent); only 15 percent of deaths have occurred outside.
Only two deaths have occurred at overdose prevention sites in the last two years, and there is no indication that opioids prescribed by doctors (safe supply) are contributing to the death tolls, according to the BC Coroners Service.
The illicit drugs are responsible for more than double the amount of unnatural deaths than suicide, motor vehicle incidents, homicide and prescription drugs combined.
To signify the 7th anniversary of the provincial declaration of a public health crisis on April 14, local non-profits tied purple flags along Tri-Cities major transit routes.
“On April 14, we once again observed the anniversary of the longest public-health emergency in our province’s history,” said Lapointe. “Since the emergency was first declared, more than 11,000 people have lost their lives due to the unregulated drug supply. This is a crisis of incomprehensible scale, and I extend my deepest condolences to everyone who has experienced the loss of someone they loved.”