When the province declared a public health emergency because of the opioid crisis in the spring of 2016, more than 200 people had already died.
By the end of that year, deaths from illicit drug overdoses had reached a record number. Despite efforts since then by government and on-the-ground groups, the situation has not improved.
- Province launches 'Overdose Emergency Response Centre' at VGH
- 5 people die of overdoses in Abbotsford within 9 hours on Friday
- B.C. breaks record for daily overdose ambulance calls
As 2017 draws to a close, the latest statistics illustrate the stark reality of a deepening emergency — as well as some of the lessons learned about the crisis.
1. The number of deaths from illicit drug overdoses has almost doubled over last year's total
From January to October of 2016, there were 683 deaths. In the same period of 2017 there were 1,208 deaths. In comparison, 1991 saw only 117.
The total number of deaths from illicit drug overdoses now eclipses any other unnatural cause of death in B.C., including suicide and motor vehicle incidents.
2. Overdose prevention sites are working
Harm reduction workers and health officials have repeatedly urged people not to use alone — and the numbers show why: Most people are dying inside homes or other locations, and not in the streets.
From January to October 2017, no one died at a supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention site.
3. Fridays see the most deaths
While spikes in calls about overdoses tend to coincide with the distribution of social assistance cheques on Wednesdays, it turns out Fridays see more deaths than any other day of the week.
4. Vancouver still has the highest death rate, but other regions have seen bigger increases
Broken down by what's referred to as health service delivery areas, it's clear the problem is not isolated to Vancouver.
While Vancouver still sees the highest death rate — 53.1 deaths per 100,000 people this year — other regions have seen more of an increase over the last decade.
The Okanagan area, which includes Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton, saw the second highest death rate in 2017 — 41.2 out of 100,000 — and a dramatic increase from a rate of 3.9 in 2007.
Fraser East (including Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission), and the Central Vancouver Island area (including Nanaimo, Duncan and Parksville), have the third and fourth highest rates, respectively.
With files from Tara Carman