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Nine suspected overdose deaths recorded last week in Vancouver

April 20 2017 Four overdose deaths took place outside of DTES

"As overdose deaths continue to climb, the City will keep calling attention to the horrific opioid crisis we are facing," says Mayor Gregor Robertson

Group of people being trained to give Naloxone

Vancouver Police Department (VPD) reported that nine overdose deaths occurred in Vancouver during the week of April 10. Four of those deaths took place outside of the DTES.

To date, there have been 18 suspected overdose deaths in April.

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.

Overdose response calls week of Apr 10: 131

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services (VFRS) reported 131 overdose response calls for the week of April 10.

The majority of the calls were in the Downtown Eastside, however, as with suspected overdose deaths, the number of cases outside the downtown area remained significant.

Despite such a large number of calls to VFRS, comparing the number of deaths to overdose calls across the city for the year to date suggests that VFRS, Ambulance, and community members are doing an effective job at getting to the scene quickly and successfully intervening in overdoses in order to save lives.

City will continue to call attention to crisis: Mayor

"As overdose deaths continue to climb, the City will keep calling attention to the horrific opioid crisis we are facing. The BC government is failing to deliver effective health solutions to save lives – this crisis is getting worse," says Mayor Gregor Robertson. "BC is on a trajectory to hit over 1,300 overdose deaths this year, 400 of those in Vancouver alone. Will BC political parties make their plans clear before the election and commit to immediately provide substitution therapy, clean prescription drugs, and treatment-on-demand options to all people with addictions to curb fentanyl's catastrophic death toll?"

BC Coroner Overdose Report data

Yesterday, the BC Coroner Overdose Report from January – March 2017 was released and included the following data points:

  • 120 deaths in BC in March = 3.9 deaths per day (51.9% increase from March 2016)
  • 347 deaths for BC in Q1 2017
  • 26 deaths in Vancouver in March
  • 100 deaths in Vancouver in Q1 2017
  • 73% aged of 19-49 years
  • 82.7% male
  • 61% fentanyl detection rate
  • All health authorities saw increase in # of deaths from February except Vancouver Island

In order to support work to reverse this trend, the City is advocating that senior levels of government take immediate steps to increase access to treatment on demand options.

Need for treatment exceeds capacity

Injectable Opioid Assisted Therapy has been proven to work for those at most risk of overdose.

Presently, the Crosstown clinic only has capacity to offer lifesaving treatment to 140 patients.

However, City staff and local addictions experts estimate that there are at least 450 others that are in urgent need of this treatment option.

Federal funds not yet allocated

The Federal Government recently announced it would transfer $10 million to BC to fight the opioid crisis. These funds have not been allocated yet and City staff are suggesting that $8 million should be directed towards providing immediate injectable therapy and psycho-social supports for patients in Vancouver.

Additional investments should also be targeted towards other regions that are experiencing high rates of overdose deaths. These investments would save lives and reduce long-term healthcare costs through better patient outcomes.

Beyond this, senior levels of government must take upstream measures to prevent the negative impacts of substance use on individuals and their loved ones through drug policy reform, investment in national early care and learning, housing affordability, and a national strategy for poverty reduction.