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International Overdose Awareness Day marked across City of Vancouver

August 31 2017 Residents mourn the loss of 247 lives in the city this year alone

"International Overdose Awareness Day is an important time to support the thousands of Vancouver families who have been devastatingly impacted by drug overdose deaths," says Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Checking blood pressure

International Overdose Awareness Day, held on August 31, brings important public awareness to the ongoing overdose crisis Vancouver is facing. 

The number of suspected deaths due to overdose has reached 247 so far in 2017, surpassing the total recorded in 2016. 

Community organizations and City staff continue to work tirelessly on the front lines to save lives, but more support is needed.

Vancouver Police Department (VPD) reported a suspected nine deaths due to overdose for the week of August 21, an increase from six reported the week prior. Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services (VFRS) recorded 156 overdose support calls for the same period, an increase from 92 reported the week before.

Quote from the Mayor

"International Overdose Awareness Day is an important time to support the thousands of Vancouver families who have been devastatingly impacted by drug overdose deaths," says Mayor Gregor Robertson. "Over 240 people have died in Vancouver so far this year. The City is pulling out all the stops to turn this brutal overdose crisis around, and encouraging provincial and federal governments to step up and help solve it. Huge and heartfelt thanks to the hundreds of community service workers, City staff and first responders who continue to work tirelessly to save lives, prevent drug overdose deaths, and connect people to the mental health and addictions services they need, when they need it."

Remembering those lost

Communities across Vancouver are coming together to remember those lost to the overdose crisis. 

Events being held today include:

  • International Overdose Awareness Day in the Downtown East Side event, 12:00pm to 4:00pm at 58 West Hastings
  • International Overdose Awareness Day Vigil & Rally, 5:00pm to 8:00pm at the North Plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery

Recommended actions

The City has been urging the federal and provincial governments to make this public health emergency a top priority by addressing the four key pillars of harm reduction, treatment, prevention, and enforcement. 

A few of the actions recommended to both levels of government include:

  • Exploring decriminalization and a move towards a national regulatory framework for all illicit substances
  • Expanding addictions treatment including injectable opioid assisted therapy
  • Increasing the number of overdose prevention sites to all communities in need
  • Providing necessary services in supportive housing for people at risk for overdose
  • Implementing drug checking programs
  • Amending legislation for MSP to include coverage for evidence based, psycho-social addiction treatments

Reports

Toxicology reports on the most recent deaths are not yet complete, and final overdose death numbers need to be confirmed by the BC Coroners Service.

Read the BC Coroners Services' report on Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths in BC, January 1, 2007 to June 2017  (490 KB).