January was the fourth consecutive month in which more than 200 people died because of the toxic illicit drug supply in B.C.
At least 207 British Columbians died from toxic illicit drugs in January, the third highest number recorded in a month, according to the latest available data from the B.C. Coroners Service Friday.
Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said as the province nears the six-year anniversary of the declaration of B.C.’s public health emergency into substance-related harms, “it is clearer than ever” that traditional approaches to substance use are hurting people and costing lives.
“I am hopeful that the recent recommendations made by the Coroners Service Drug Toxicity Death Review Panel will support the meaningful change underway in our province and an end to this tragic crisis,” said Lapointe, in a statement Friday.
January was the fourth consecutive month in which more than 200 lives were lost to the illicit drug supply in B.C., according to the coroner. The 207 deaths is the third highest recorded in a calendar month, an average of about 6.7 deaths per day.
Lapointe said there has been a notable increases in smaller and medium-sized communities, including 11 recorded deaths in Kamloops in January, making it the third most affected community in B.C. behind only Vancouver and Surrey.
As well, 19 deaths recorded in Northern Health equates to a death rate of 74.5 per 100,000 residents, the highest rate of any health authority, she added.
Between November and January, about 23 per cent of tests showed “extreme” levels of fentanyl (concentrations exceeding 50 micrograms per litre), compared to 13 per cent of results between April 2020 and October, according to the coroner.
“We know that illicit substances in our province are toxic and that those dependent on them are vulnerable to serious harms and death,” Lapointe said.
“Ensuring access to safer supply, establishing a substance use system of care, and turning the focus away from punishing and stigmatizing are critical steps to resolving this public health emergency.”
She also said that 72 per cent of those who died in January were aged 30 to 59, and most of them were men and occurred inside a residence.
No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.
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