One year ago this week, British Columbia’s opioid crisis was declared a public health emergency.
Since then, “over 1,000 people have died from drug overdoses across BC, with Vancouver hit the hardest,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. He made the remarks in a statement this week, after an update by city staff on what the City was doing to address the opioid crisis.
After a total of 215 overdose deaths in Vancouver for all of 2016, the city is already well on its way to surpassing that amount, just four months into 2017.
Already this year, “there have been 110 overdose deaths in Vancouver,” the city said in a release. “If rates of overdose deaths continue at this pace, Vancouver could see nearly 400 deaths in 2017, double the amount recorded in 2016.”
And the numbers continue to climb.
During the week of April 3, Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services reported 134 overdose calls for the week of April 3. This in itself is a 16.5% increase from the 115 calls responded to during the previous week.
In total, there have been 1,850 overdose calls since January 1 in the City of Vancouver alone. This is already more than double the number of calls responded to for the same time period in 2016.
“The status quo is a disaster,” said Robertson. “How many more hundreds of lives will be lost, and families impacted, before we see urgent action from the provincial and federal governments to deliver effective health solutions that save lives?”
Earlier this year, the federal government gave $10 million to BC to boost their response to the fentanyl overdose crisis, “but the province has yet to invest those funds for treatment-on-demand, substitution therapy or clean prescription opioids,” Robertson added.
According to the Vancouver Police, there were seven suspected overdose deaths in the city last week. Toxicology reports are not yet complete on these cases, and final overdose death numbers need to be confirmed by the BC Coroners Service.