March overdose deaths in Vancouver to exceed last month's totals

Mar 22 2017, 5:30 pm

Vancouver’s overdose deaths in March are likely to surpass February totals, according to a report from the City of Vancouver.

As of March 21, the Vancouver Police Department reported 21 suspected overdose deaths in the city so far. These numbers do not count the overdose deaths that have occurred in hospitals.

In February, there were 25 recorded overdose deaths in the entire month. However, toxicology reports for the month of March are not complete and final overdose numbers still need to be confirmed by the BC Coroners Service.

City responded to 104 overdose calls last week

During the week of March 13, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services reported to over 104 overdose calls, the majority of which took place in the Downtown Eastside.

The City notes that the number of overdose reports outside of the Downtown Eastside remains high.

Mayor Gregor Robertson says that community workers and first responders are doing all they can to combat the overdose crisis.

“The City’s first responders and front line community service workers are at a breaking point, shouldering a large share of the overdose response in the fentanyl crisis,” said Robertson in a release.

Robertson calls on BC government for support

In February, the federal government announced $10 million funding over the next five years for short-term emergency initiatives to fight the opioid crisis in BC.

Robertson called on the provincial government to use some of this funding to provide immediate support.

“We desperately need the BC government to spend the recently received $10 million from the federal government to combat the fentanyl crisis to broaden access to clean prescription drugs, substitution therapy and treatment-on-demand to help bring relief to our first responders who are working tirelessly to save lives from drug overdoses,” he said.

In 2016, 922 people died from overdoses in BC and nearly 25% of those deaths occurred in Vancouver.

The City is pushing for an increase of access to treatment on demand options, such as Opioid Assisted Therapy. The City estimates that $8 million is needed from all levels of government in order to provide injectable therapy and psycho-social supports in Vancouver.