The BC Coroners Service is sounding the alarm and urging drug users – especially in the Downtown Eastside – to take extra care, after an unprecedented number of fatalities involving illicit drugs on Thursday.
At least six people died after using drugs in the Downtown Eastside in a span of only about eight hours. Another two deaths in the same area – as well as a death in another Vancouver neighbourhood and a death in Burnaby – are suspected of potentially being drug-related as well.
Two other deaths in BC on Thursday – one in the Fraser Valley and one in northern BC – have also been linked to illicit drug overdoses.
“We are not sure what has caused this very distressing spike in fatalities,” said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe. “It will take detailed toxicology testing and further investigation to try to determine that.”
BC is “in the midst of a serious health crisis,” said Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer, at a press conference on Friday. “Fentanyl is killing people every day in our city, and in this province.”
— Van Mayor’s Office (@VanMayorsOffice) December 16, 2016
Palmer stressed that the issue is not specific to just the Downtown Eastside.
“We’re seeing a record number of overdose deaths all over Vancouver, and it’s getting worse,” Palmer said.
The intensity and frequency of the emergency calls “is putting a severe strain on our first responders, and is not sustainable,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Better access to treatment and detox on demand is a crucial proactive approach to save lives and reduce the intense burden on front-line workers.”
As of the end of November, the VPD had investigated approximately 160 overdose deaths and 35 in November alone, Palmer noted.
A summary of drug death fatalities up to the end of November will be made public by the BC Coroners Service on Monday, Dec. 19.