Fentanyl overdose crisis
Mukhina Victoria - Shutterstock

The BC Coroner has reported that, since the beginning of January, over 1,200 BC residents have died due to a toxic drug supply, adding an additional 184 deaths from July.

July marks the second-deadliest month on record in BC—only two fewer than the 186 deaths recorded in June 2020—and is the 17th consecutive month that more than 100 British Columbians died due to toxic drugs.

The average rate of death in July is 5.9 British Columbians per day.

The overall rate of deaths due to toxic illicit drugs in British Columbia stood at 39.7 per 100,000 residents.

Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria are experiencing the highest number of illicit drug toxicity deaths in 2021 so far and the highest rates of death per 100,000 population are Vancouver Coastal (47.2) and Northern (45.6).

Fentanyl and Carfentanil—a more potent analogue of fentanyl—has been commonly detected in toxic drug supply deaths.

Provincial funding for naloxone kits

In April 2020, the BC government announced it would no longer supply naloxone training or kits to police forces.

Naloxone is a medicine that is injected to reverse drug overdoses.

Last Tuesday, the chief of the Oak Bay Police Department tweeted that its supply is expiring, and Saanich and Victoria police forces have confirmed their departments are in a similar situation.

Oak Bay Police Chief Ray Bernoties said he’s not going to abandon the naloxone program and will seek funds for their 2022 budget.

Some departments have funded the program from their own budgets, while others haven’t yet run out of supplies.

Premier Horgan responded last Thursday with a promise to replenish naloxone supply for the few detachments that are experiencing supply issues, but was pressed on why this issue did not ring the alarm 18 months prior

BC’s official opposition criticized the BC government for the budget cut and their lack of priorities.

“Just last week we found out John Horgan cut funding to naloxone kits, which are essential for front-line emergency responders during this crisis,” said Trevor Halford, BC Liberal Critic for Mental Health and Addictions.

“While the NDP keep trying to say this public health emergency is a top priority, their actions show otherwise.”

Horgan doubled down by saying the province can only respond as the issues come, but there is no word yet on when the funding will be restored.

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