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Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services reports 56% increase in overdose response calls over week of March 20

March 30 2017 Overdose deaths on pace to double year-on-year

Checking blood pressure

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services (VF&RS) reported 162 overdose response calls for the week of March 20, a 56% increase from the previous week where 104 calls were responded to.

The majority of the calls were in the Downtown Eastside, however the number of cases outside the downtown area remained significant.

Despite such a large increase in calls to VF&RS, Vancouver Police reported five suspected overdose deaths across the city last week, suggesting that VF&RS, BC Ambulance Service, and community members are doing an effective job at getting to the scene quickly and successfully intervening in overdoses in order to save lives. Toxicology reports on those five deaths are not yet complete and final overdose death numbers need to be confirmed by the BC Coroners Service.

Map of overdose calls for March 20 to 26, 2017

On April 12, 2017, BC's provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall will be speaking before Vancouver City Council to provide an update on the crisis nearly one year after he declared a public health emergency. Opioid dependence is one of the most serious health concerns in the province. 922 people died from overdoses last year in BC – nearly 23% of them in Vancouver.

To date in 2017, there have been 100 overdose deaths in Vancouver – there were 215 in all of 2016. If rates of overdose deaths continue at this pace, Vancouver could see nearly 400 deaths in 2017, double the amount recorded in 2016 when the crisis was declared.

Increase access to treatment

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. 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.

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.


Mayor Gregor Robertson says, "It's abominable that with 100 overdose deaths already this year in Vancouver - almost half of 2016's total - we have yet to see effective action from the provincial and federal governments on health care solutions that will stop the death toll in this fentanyl crisis. Overdose death totals have long surpassed horrific levels and the BC government urgently needs to spend the $10 million received from the federal government before yet another hundred families are impacted by tragic preventable deaths. People are desperate for access to clean prescription drugs, substitution therapy and treatment-on-demand; measures that will immediately save lives and help people recover from addictions."