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Overdose death numbers likely to rise in March: City of Vancouver

Last Updated May 29, 2017 at 7:45 am PDT

(iStock Photo)

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services reported 104 overdose calls last week alone

BC declared a public health emergency nearly a year ago

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – With 10 days left in this month, the number of overdose deaths in Vancouver is already expected to top the number from February.

City staff are reporting 21 suspected overdose deaths in March, compared to 25 in all of February.

Also, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services recorded 104 overdose calls last week alone, an increase from the previous week. While most calls came from the Downtown Eastside, the number of cases outside the downtown area is still high.

Final overdose death numbers still need to be confirmed by the BC Coroners Service.

“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,” says Mayor Gregor Robertson in a statement. “We desperately need the BC government to spend the recently received $10 million from the federal government to combat the fentanyl crisis.”

Robertson is also asking senior levels of government take immediate steps to increase access to on-demand treatment options.

Mary Clare Zak, the city’s managing director of social policy, explains why the Mayor is demanding more funding support.

“What we want to see the provincial government do with the funding that it got from the federal government –about ten million dollars– is to invest that in injectable opioid treatment. We know this treatment is effective there’s only about 120 or so people in Vancouver who are receiving the treatment.”

The growing number of overdose deaths prompted BC’s provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall to declare a public health emergency on April 14, 2016. Overdoses claimed 922 lives in the province last year; about 25 per cent were in Vancouver.

We’ve reached out for comment from Health Minister Terry Lake, but he hasn’t responded yet.