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Overdose deaths spike in Vancouver during pandemic

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Apr 2, 2020 at 12:43 pm PDT

FILE - The Downtown Eastside resident crisis response team distributes brochures outlining how to access safer drugs. (Photo by Dustin Godfrey for NEWS 1130)
Summary

Officers attended eight "overdose-suspected" deaths from March 23 to 29

Increase contrasts with overall decline in overdose deaths in the past year

The drug supply remains toxic with fentanyl and other contaminants: VPD

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Overdose deaths spiked in Vancouver last week, a reminder, says the City of Vancouver, of the two concurrent public health emergencies.

Officers attended eight “overdose-suspected” deaths from March 23 to 29, the most in a single week since August 2019.

“The increase in overdose deaths last week is a reminder that we now are experiencing two public health emergencies: COVID-19 and the overdose crisis,” says a release from the city.

The increase contrasts with an overall decline in overdose deaths in the city over the past year.

The city says the drug supply remains toxic with fentanyl and other contaminants in many local illicit drugs.

Insite and Powell Street Getaway remain open and Vancouver Coastal Health is working with service providers to ensure overdose prevention sites are open for people to access.

Vancouver Coastal is asking people to continue using supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites, while recommending that housing providers continue allowing visitors and use other strategies so they don’t use alone in their rooms.

New guidelines were released last week by the provincial government to help prescribers offer safer alternatives to street drugs.

“It is hoped this step will reduce overdose risk and help drug users to safely physically distance to prevent COVID-19 transmission,” says the release.

The Downtown Eastside resident crisis response team is distributing brochures outlining access to safer drugs, while the city and Vancouver Coastal are creating a dashboard to monitor the concurrent crises for deaths and clusters.