British Columbia

Vancouver overdose numbers remained high in August

The City of Vancouver's recent overdose numbers show an increase in the number of deaths in August, compared to the month before.

Number of suspected overdose deaths increases by five from July

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services responded to 499 overdose-related calls in August. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC News)

Twenty-three people died from suspected overdoses in Vancouver in August, the city reported Tuesday.

That's five more suspected overdose deaths than were reported in July.

The city's report also shows Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services were called to 499 overdose-related calls in August.

According to provincial statistics, of the 876 suspected overdose deaths in British Columbia between January and July, 226 happened in Vancouver.

First responders in the city have felt a huge strain during the ongoing opioid crisis. Capt. Steve Fraser with Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services said the continuing struggle to save lives has seen unprecedented stress and anxiety run rampant through their ranks.

Frontline Fentanyl 

Health workers at organizations such as the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users and the Portland Hotel Society have been experiencing a significant strain as well, and their story is the focus of the new documentary Frontline Fentanyl. 

The film, which screened for the first time Tuesday, follows health workers who are often the first point of contact for drug users in the city.

The half-hour film was made during February 2016, a time when the opioid crisis was still relatively new in Vancouver and people started overdosing in alarming numbers.

Following the film screening, a discussion and forum was held at Simon Fraser University's Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. Panellists included founder of the Overdose Prevention Society Sarah Blythe and deputy provincial health officer Bonnie Henry.

Long-time drug reporter Travis Lupick moderated the forum.

Speaking with host Stephen Quinn during CBC's On the Coast, Lupick said waning public interest in the opioid crisis is troubling to him.

"People in the media business are watching the page views start to dip on fentanyl and overdose stories," said Lupick. "And that's really sad because the deaths are not really dipping."

The screening was by donation only and all proceeds will go to B.C.'s Overdose Prevention Society.

With files from On the Coast