British Columbia

B.C. Coroners Service collecting more data to better understand opioid crisis

The B.C. Coroners Service is collecting more comprehensive data to help identify trends in B.C.'s ongoing opioid crisis.

Coroner writing more detailed, comprehensive reports to help identify trends in opioid crisis

At least 780 British Columbians have died of a drug overdose so far this year, up 88 per cent from last year. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The B.C. Coroners Service is collecting more data about those who have died from an overdose in order to better identify trends around the province's ongoing opioid crisis.

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says coroners have typically collected information like location of death, age, sex, and toxicology results, but since December they've been filling out an 11-page document with a number of additional questions.

Lapointe says the additional questions include identifying a more specific location of death (was the death indoors or outdoors, at a private residence or at a hotel/motel); the deceased's history of overdoses; whether they have been diagnosed with a mental illness; whether they have a physical ailment, and if they have housing.

"With all of these questions, we're [trying to] to help identify populations at risk [and] we're really trying to see some patterns that will help target prevention efforts," she said.

While substantial analysis has yet to be completed with the accumulated data, some of the B.C. Coroners Service data was used in collaboration with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) to identify that First Nations people are five times more likely to overdose.

It also found First Nations women are particularly at risk.

Lapointe says identifying trends like this can help service providers target their messaging and supports to vulnerable populations, but admitted that B.C.'s opioid crisis — where at least 780 people have died so far this year — is still a huge challenge.

Nevertheless, raising awareness and supplying information is a key part of battling the crisis, she says.

"We have to make sure that people are aware of the risk. It would be irresponsible to know about these risks and these dangers and not tell people," she said.

Last year, 922 people died from a drug overdose in B.C.

With files from The Early Edition