Drug overdose response calls in Vancouver went up 29% last week in compared to the week before, as the opioid crisis continues to claim more victims.
Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services received 169 calls about overdoses in the week beginning April 17, with eight people dying.
So far, City information suggests 126 people have died after overdosing in 2017, although the BC Coroners Service is yet to confirm this final number.
The majority of the calls received last week were in the Downtown Eastside, but more than half of overdose deaths reported by the Vancouver Police happened elsewhere.
In a release, Mayor Gregor Robertson said the number of preventable deaths in Vancouver and BC continues to skyrocket.
“We see a status quo response from the BC government to a public health emergency that is now more than a year old,” said Robertson.
“It’s atrocious that so many people are dying; we need the BC government to take action with urgent health care interventions.”
Federal Government steps into the frame
Meanwhile, the federal government has enabled the bulk purchasing of foreign-authorized medications, in hopes of eliminating barriers to addictions treatment.
Some of the medications that can be bulk purchased include diacetylmorphine, which is effective at treating opioid addiction and thus preventing overdose deaths.
The Mayor is now urging the provincial government to take immediate action to make the injectable opioid against therapy available to everyone who needs it.
“With the federal government expanding access to safe prescription drugs, there’s no reason the province can’t take immediate action to save lives by expanding drug therapy programs to all those in need,” Robertson said.
The Providence Crosstown Clinic serves as an example of the challenges faced by those trying to prevent overdose deaths.
The clinic the only one in North America to offer medical-grade heroin and the legal painkiller hydromorphone within a supervised setting to chronic substance use patients.
However, the Hastings Street clinic only has the capacity to offer treatment to 140 patients against an estimated 450 of those in need.