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B.C. breaks record for daily overdose ambulance calls

B.C. Emergency Health Services says it responded to 130 suspected overdoses in the province on Wednesday, April 26. The previous record was 121, on Nov. 20, 2016.

B.C. Emergency Health Services responded to 130 suspected overdoses on Wednesday

B.C. Emergency Health Services says it responded to 130 overdoses in the province on April 26, shattering the previous daily record set in November 2016. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

B.C.'s first responders have once again broken the record for suspected overdose calls in a single day.

B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) says it responded to 130 suspected overdoses in the province on Wednesday, April 26. The previous record was 121, on Nov. 20, 2016.

That number includes 52 suspected overdoses in Vancouver.

The spike coincides with the distribution of social assistance cheques on Wednesday — a pattern first responders have come to expect and now actively prepare for.

"Along with our regular staffing increases for social assistance cheque day, especially in Surrey and Vancouver, we are again deploying our bike squad on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to increase mobility in high-traffic areas," BCEHS spokesperson Preet Grewal said in an email.

'It's chaos, still'

Sarah Blyth, of the Overdose Prevention Society in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, says her society now sees about 500 people a day, up from about 100 a day when the society first started operating.

"It's chaos, still," Blyth said. "Maybe, as time goes by, people forget that we're still in the middle of a crisis."

Though the Overdose Prevention Society is not a legally sanctioned safe injection site like InSite, Blyth says her society's work is essential to alleviating the ongoing overdose crisis.

"Really, the only thing we can do is get people the proper medication alternatives, so that people aren't overdosing in the first place," Blyth said.

With files from Karin Larsen and Belle Puri.

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