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October 27, 2017 4:08 pm

Northern Health Reacts to Overdose Crisis

Tuesday, August 8, 2017 @ 5:55 AM

Vancouver, B.C. – Seemingly no end in sight to the overdose crisis in British Columbia.

New numbers released Friday by the BC Coroners Service showed the number of overdose deaths in the province is up 88 per cent compared with the same period in 2016.

Data showed that there were 111 suspected drug overdose deaths in June 2017, an average of 3.7 each day and a 61 per cent increase from June 2016.

This increases the provisional number of deaths for the year to date to 780 (28 in northern B.C.), up from 414 at this time last year.

The numbers also show that almost three-quarters of all illicit drug deaths involved persons between the ages of 30 and 59 years. Four out of five who died were male.

Also of note, nine in 10 illicit drug deaths occurred inside – none occurred at any supervised consumption sites.

So far, this year, Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health Authority have the highest number (258 and 249 respectively) of illicit drug overdose deaths, making up 65 per cent of all illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C.

The BC Coroners Service also revealed that 78 per cent of overdose deaths from January to May 2017 were fentanyl related – more than double the number over the same period in 2016.

Dr. Raina Fumerton, northwest medical health officer for Northern Health, says she’s “alarmed” by the latest statistics adding they are “unacceptably high,” though the rate of overdose deaths remains higher in the Lower Mainland than the North.

Data courtesy BC Coroners Service

“Right now the provincial rate is 32.5 deaths per 100,000 people – and that’s for 2017. Last year the provincial rate was 20.6 deaths per 100,000. If you go back to 2012 the rate was 5.9 she says.

“At Northern Health we’ve similarly seen a rising trend in rates. Right now (2017) the rate of illicit overdose deaths is 19.6 per 100,000 versus 18.2 last year. So, relatively speaking, compared to the province, we in the North have a lower rate.”

Like the province, Fumerton says fentanyl related deaths are on the rise in the North too.

“I’ve looked at fentanyl data up to May 2017 and of the 25 unintended illicit drug overdose deaths in the North, 23 of those had fentanyl involved. So, that’s 92 per cent.”

She says work is being done to address the issue such as collaborative work between Northern Health, the Province, municipalities and community agencies. She adds Northern Health continues to operate its overdose prevention site along with other efforts including using naloxone – a medication used to block the effects of opioids in an overdose situation – and providing public awareness. Things she believes are helping.

“Yeah. I think so. I mean, we’ve really done a great job in partnership with our community agencies, municipalities and the Province – really getting the information out there so people understand the risk and what the risk is and how to protect themselves. As well, the expansion of Naloxone…and decreasing stigma – improving access to places where people can use their drugs safely and be monitored. I think all of those efforts are making a difference.”

That being said she notes the drug supply remains “extremely dangerous” and becoming more so. All that considered, is she optimistic things will improve?

“Absolutely. I don’t think I could get up in the morning and do my job if I didn’t have hope. I’ve been really inspired by the collaborative work that’s happening at all levels of society,” says Fumerton.

“And I think really addressing some of the root causes of addiction is also a really important piece to focus on. I think that we really need to start thinking about drug policy and ways in which we can improve drug policies so it helps to address this problem at the societal level as well.”



So what is the law doing with people that is caught selling the drugs with fentanyl in it. shouldn’t the charge be elevated to attempted murder, not a drug charge…. thinking out loud.

    Yes, it should be, but does the Federal Gov’t have the balls to do it?

      So you think Trudeau should keep doing exactly what Harper did? Nothing..

    Whats the law for Molson , Coors etc that allow people to get liquored up on their products and commit vehicular manslaughter, and other death inducing stupid things?

    I mean, its all one big circle if you are going to want legislation on cause and effect.

      Not a proper comparison at all.

      You don’t die from drinking alcohol, it is what you chose to do while under the influence you are referring to which is the same as someone shooting up and then driving while impaired which are both as bad and currently both illegal. But that is not what He Spoke is proposing.

      A similar comparison would be someone overdosing on a beer or cooler, which we know due to controls will never happen as fentanyl will not be found in a controlled product. If it is that would be covered under the new law He Spoke is proposing – so if BC Liquor were to lace your favourite apple cider drink with a fentanyl product which would increase your chance of overdosing they would face stiff penalties much like the dealer who sells heroin laced with the same substance.

      Serve right.. but if you don’t you can be charged…

      Sell drugs.. if the user dies.. nothing..

    Try proving attempted murder in court. Change the law to make it a 10 year minimum sentence for selling drugs laced with fentanyl or carfentanyl

Gotta remember, everyone who buys any illegal drugs supports organized crime.

    Really? So my grandma grows a few plants and sells it to her friends makes her part of organized crime? 🙄

      Ha Ha good one. She better watch out, they don’t like independents
      muscling in on their territory. I think everyone should be allowed to grow a few plants, do whatever they want with it. It sure does help a couple buds with pain issues.


“Seemingly no end in sight to the overdose crisis in British Columbia.”

Give it time, they’ll all die off soon enough. At some point, survival of the fittest will cull the herd.

    There will always be some more new users who start while others are passing on. If the problem can not be solved by cutting off the supply – and that appears to be impossible – we may just have to accept it as a reality in our society. Very sad, indeed!

I would like to see some stats on the overdose patients that have been treated with Naloxone that did NOT fully recover and are now long term patients in our hospitals and care homes. We have lots of stats on the actual deaths, but I can’t help but think there are others that are still in dire straights. Where is this information?

    They don’t want you to know the answer to that question.

      True dat!

I have a hard time feeling bad for the people that do that, but I sure feel bad for the people that are left behind to wonder why they were such iiii in the first place.

Have northern health get rid of 5 managers..that would give $ 500’000-600,000 into the fentanyl crisis.

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