Overdose deaths on pace to double year-on-year in Vancouver

Mar 31 2017, 5:12 pm

In a situation that Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson calls “abominable,” the number of overdose calls in the city continues to rise.

Last week alone, there were 162 incidents – a 56% increase from the previous week, when 104 calls were responded to.

The majority of the calls were in the Downtown Eastside, however the number of cases outside the downtown area remained significant.

So far this year, there have been 100 overdose deaths in Vancouver, compared to a 2016 total of 215.

Deaths could double

If rates of overdose deaths continue at this pace, officials say that Vancouver could see nearly 400 deaths in 2017 – double the amount recorded in 2016 when the crisis was declared.

Robertson called out the provincial and federal government for what he perceives as a  lack of action on the situation.

“We have yet to see effective action from the provincial and federal governments on health care solutions that will stop the death toll in this fentanyl crisis,” he said.

“Overdose death totals have long surpassed horrific levels and the BC government urgently needs to spend the $10 million received from the federal government before yet another hundred families are impacted by tragic preventable deaths.”

‘Desperate for access’

The mayor added that people are “desperate for access” to clean prescription drugs, substitution therapy, and treatment-on-demand.

BC’s provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall will be speaking before Vancouver City Council on April 12, to provide an update on the crisis nearly one year after he declared a public health emergency.

Opioid dependence is one of the most serious health concerns facing British Columbia.

Across the province, 922 people died from overdoses last year.

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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