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New data shows Vancouver had record number of overdose deaths in 2017

Last Updated Jan 17, 2018 at 6:01 pm PDT

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Vancouver says month-to-month opioid overdose numbers appear to be going down

There were 335 drug-related deaths in Vancouver in 2017

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – There is further evidence the growing overdose crisis in BC is out of control. Staff with the City of Vancouver say drug overdoses killed more people last year than any other previous year on file, but there is a silver lining. They say month-to-month numbers seem to finally be dropping.

The 335 drug-related deaths in 2017 mark a 43 per cent increase from the 234 recorded in 2016.

“The magnitude of tragic deaths due to the opioid crisis is horrific and is putting an unbearable strain on our emergency responders, front-line workers and community volunteers, who are working around the clock to save lives. The City of Vancouver has been pouring in resources and has established itself as a national leader with its municipal overdose response, and we appreciate that the new BC government has taken significant steps to address this crisis. While the number of deaths is far too high, we are seeing some positive trends emerge with a significant drop in the second half of the year compared to the first. We will continue to tackle the opioid epidemic head-on, and hope that all three levels of government can turn the tide and end these preventable deaths,” says Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

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The city’s Social Policy Director Mary Clare Zak says a record high 49 deaths were logged in January of last year, but monthly stats are down roughly 40 to 50 per cent.

“Some of the interventions that have taken place in the downtown eastside have helped and these include the safe consumption sites. One of them has had over 100,000 people come and make use of the site and those are the kinds of interventions that we need to continue and to spread to help save lives.”

She adds, on average, six people died every week in 2017. “We had 335 people die and that’s an over 40 per cent increase from the year before which is an absolute tragedy.”

Zak points out support services are being offered to front line emergency workers including police, firefighters and paramedics. “To address any issues, any concerns, any trauma as a result of the work they’re doing and witnessing on a daily basis.”

The numbers recorded by the City of Vancouver still have to be confirmed by the BC Coroners Service which plans to release its statistics by the end of this month.

The opioid overdose crisis was declared a public health emergency in BC back in April of 2016.