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Overdose crisis doesn't get urgency of COVID-19: BCCSU, after 3 deaths in Surrey

Last Updated Nov 19, 2020 at 12:44 pm PST


A toxic drug supply warning is coming from Surrey RCMP following three deaths within 12 hours

B.C. Centre on Substance Use says the overdose crisis doesn't get the same urgency as the COVID-19 pandemic

The opioid overdose crisis has killed more than 1,500 people in B.C. so far this year, more than 300 in Vancouver

SURREY (NEWS 1130) — Three deaths within 12 hours are Surrey is raising the alarm about the toxic drug supply killing more British Columbians every day compared to COVID-19.

In a statement, Mounties say they suspect fatal overdoses caused the deaths and there doesn’t seem to be any connection between the victims.

Despite the number of deaths, Guy Felicella, with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, says there is a real disconnect.

RELATED: Vancouver mayor wants feds to decriminalize simple drug possession

“When you compare the urgency to COVID, and you compare it to the overdose crisis, it really shows that some lives matter more than others, and drug users lives just don’t matter much and that’s sad,” he says. “It doesn’t just pick and choose it can be anybody. It’s sad that we continue to lack the sense of urgency to address the crisis.”

The overdose crisis was declared a public health emergency in April 2016 and he feels it’s only gotten worse during the pandemic.

“It’s gone up to as high as 6.8 [deaths] a day — we’re probably averaging five people a day right now — five people every single day will die of a drug overdose.”

He adds the majority of these deaths remain indoors, often in people’s homes.

RELATED: B.C. needs more support for drug overdose survivors, caregivers: advocate

Felicella, says people need to share information about protecting others from overdoses, including getting drugs tested and reminding those who do use, not to do it alone.

The province’s latest overdose numbers will be released next week.

More than 1,500 deaths this year alone

The opioid overdose crisis has killed more than 1,500 people in B.C. so far this year, including more than 300 in the City of Vancouver alone. In comparison, as of Wednesday, 310 people have died because of COVID-19.

The latest report from the B.C. Coroner’s Service shows deaths have more than doubled compared to the same time last year.

Previous numbers for September saw 127 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths. It was the seventh straight month the numbers have topped the 100-mark in B.C. and a 112 per cent increase over the same month a year ago.

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At the time, Premier John Horgan admitted more needs to be done to bring down the number of overdose deaths in the province.

B.C. set a record with 177 illicit drug toxicity and fentanyl-detected drug deaths this past June, then had 175 more in July. August saw another 147 deaths.

So far this year, 70 per cent of such overdose deaths have been people aged 30 to 59. Males have accounted for 80 per cent of deaths in 2020 to date.

Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria have experienced the highest number of overdoses this year.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Vancouver will be calling on the federal government to decriminalize simple possession of illegal drugs in the city.

-with files from Marcella Bernardo and Sonia Aslam