More than 900 Overdose Deaths in 2016
Prince George, B.C.- Last year, 914 people lost their lives because of a drug overdose, and Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says as testing results are still to be completed, that number is likely to increase .
That is an 80% increase in overdose deaths that occurred in 2015.
December saw the highest number of deaths with 142 in that month alone, which Lapointe says amounts to nine deaths every 2 days.
“These numbers are, tragically, far too high” said Health Minister Terry Lake. He says this crisis should be a launching pad for new ways to treat drug addiction and helping people on the road to recovery. “We are expanding access to recovery supports” says Minister Lake. To that end, the Province has announced an additional 60 residential treatment beds and 50 outpatient treatment spaces. Both treatment options will be 90-day programs, followed by a year of
follow-up care in the community, including weekly group counselling and access to counsellors when issues arise.
The Province has allocated $10 million for the new services, which will start opening this spring and are in addition to the commitment the province has already made to have 500 new addiction treatment beds in place.
As of February 1st, the Province will also give 100% opioid substitution therapies to eligible British Columbians. That expanded coverage is expected to cost more than $6 million a year.
Chief Coroner Lapointe says they know those who suffer from drug dependency will not be able to abstain immediately from using drugs “Given the increasing risk of contaminated drugs and the growing number of fatalities, though, we urge them to use illicit drugs only in the presence of medical expertise or, at the very least, a sober person with access to, and training in, the use of naloxone. For those who are not drug dependent, we strongly advise you to avoid
experimentation and the casual use of illicit drugs. The risks are now unmanageable.”
Lapointe says it is too early to say if fentanyl or carfentanil were major factors in the December deaths, as test results are not expected until March. She also says the fatalities are not just among opioid drug users, that cocaine and methamphetamines are also being found in a high percentage of confirmed fentanyl detected deaths last year.