British Columbia

'It's abominable': Vancouver mayor reacts to overdose deaths

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is calling the opioid overdose situation in the city 'abominable,' after another bad week of overdoses and deaths.

5 more suspected overdose deaths last week add to the city's total of 100 so far this year

Including five suspected overdose deaths that haven't been confirmed by the B.C. Coroners Service, Vancouver has hit 100 overdose deaths in 2017 alone. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson reacted once again to the opioid overdose situation in the city on Thursday after another bad week of overdoses and deaths.

Firefighters responded to 162 overdose calls during the week beginning on March 20 — a 56 per cent increase from the week before.

Police suspect drugs were to blame for five deaths in the city, though officers don't typically respond to overdose calls, and the cause of death in those cases has not yet been confirmed by the B.C. Coroners Service.

Including the five suspected deaths, Vancouver has now reached 100 drug overdose deaths this year alone. In all of 2016, there were 216 deaths, meaning the city is on track to dramatically surpass last year's levels.

'Tragic preventable deaths'

"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," said Robertson in a statement.

"Overdose death totals have long surpassed horrific levels and the B.C. government urgently needs to spend the $10 million received from the federal government before yet another hundred families are impacted by tragic preventable deaths," he said.

Robertson is calling on the B.C. Government to put $8 million into injectable therapies, like prescription heroin and hydromorphone, as well as mental health support for patients in Vancouver.

Officials say that, despite the high number of overdoses — 102 of which happened in the Downtown Eastside — firefighters, paramedics and community members have been successful in responding quickly and intervening before it's too late in most cases.

Vancouver firefighters responded to 162 overdose calls in the city during the week beginning March 20. (Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services)

Most of the deaths are happening in neighbourhoods outside the Downtown Eastside, said Jonathan Gormick, public information officer for Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services. 

"People are not getting access to naloxone when they're overdosing in other parts of the city, and that could be for a variety of reasons, either because they're using alone, or using somewhere where they're not found if they're having an overdose event," said Gormick.

With files from Bridgette Watson