April saw 2nd highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in B.C.
B.C. Coroner's Service says 136 people died from overdoses last month; previous high was 144 dead in December
The B.C. Coroner's Service has released new numbers revealing 136 people died of an overdose in British Columbia last month, a 97.1 per cent increase from April 2016 and the second highest number of fatalities ever recorded in B.C.
The most people to die from overdoses in a single month in B.C. was 144 in December 2016.
Most deaths indoors
The coroner's service says, in 2017, 89.5 per cent of illicit drug overdose deaths occurred indoors, with more than half inside a person's private residence.
"It is of great concern that despite the harm-reduction measures now in place and the public-safety messages issued, many people are still using illicit drugs in private residences where help is not readily available," said Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe.
There have never been any fatalities at supervised consumption sites.
"I strongly urge those using illicit drugs to do so only at a safe consumption site or drug overdose prevention site, if one is accessible.
The stats also show that, so far in 2017, 35 per cent of all overdose deaths happened in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
More than half of the drug deaths involved people aged 30 to 49. The numbers show 83 per cent of those who died were male.
Nearly two-thirds of overdose deaths from January to February of 2017 involved fentanyl, but fentanyl-related data is not available for March and April.
More drastic action
The crisis is showing no signs of slowing down and in fact may be accelerating.
There were 290 overdose-related deaths between January and April of 2016. But In the first four months of this year, there have already been 488 fatalities.
There have been growing calls for the federal government to act urgently to address the opioid overdose crisis
Last week, it responded by approving four new supervised consumption sites in Canada. Three of those are in B.C. — two in Surrey and one on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
Sarah Blyth, with Vancouver's Overdose Prevention Society, said she welcomes the move but called it a bandaid solution.
"The solution isn't safe injection sites. The solution is getting them the medicine they need and then taking care of their needs to try and figure out how they got to where they're at," said Blyth.
Blyth is calling for the urgent expansion of opioid-replacement therapy and facillities like Vancouver's Crosstown Clinic that use prescription heroin to treat those addicted to opioids.
"We need to take more drastic action and follow what's been scientifically proven to work," said Blyth.
As the crisis continues, officials are advising drug users to only use a small amount initially and to always use in the presence of someone who is able to administer the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.