Friday, January 26, 2024

Report from BC Coroner outlines how Toxic Drugs claim close to seven deaths a day in British Columbia

2023 was sadly a record breaking year when it comes to the number of British Columbian lives claimed by toxic drugs, with a report from  Lisa Lapointe, the Chief Coroner for the province confirming that toxic, unregulated drugs claimed the lives of at least 2,511 people in British Columbia in 2023, the largest number of drug-related deaths ever reported to the agency. 

"Tragically, toxic, illicit drugs are continuing to cause unprecedented numbers of deaths across our province. This crisis, driven primarily by unregulated fentanyl, has cost our province dearly in the loss of much-loved and valued members of our communities. We cannot bring our deceased loved ones back, but we can and must do much more to protect the lives of tens of thousands of our family members, friends and colleagues still at risk." -- Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner

The data from the two page document provides a review of various age groups that perished from the toxic drug supply.

Additional background information that accompanies the review, outlines the scope of the problem across BC with the Northwest not immune from the deadly toll. 

While there is no overall breakdown for the Northwest,  of the communities in this region of the Northern Health service area, Terrace saw the largest number of deaths.

As has been the case throughout the public health emergency, no area of B.C. was spared the devastation caused by toxic drugs in 2023. 

The Vancouver-Centre North local health area, which includes Vancouvers Downtown Eastside, reported a rate of death more than 12 times greater than the provincial average. 

The next highest rates were observed in Hope, Alberni/Clayoquot, Terrace and Greater Campbell River. Four of the provinces five regional health authorities saw record-high numbers and rates of death.

The coroners report concludes with a call for political action in Victoria towards the issue.

"As we approach the eighth anniversary of the declaration of the public-health emergency that has cost so many lives across B.C., our province needs a co-ordinated, evidence-based response that is commensurate with the scale of this health crisis. 

Deaths due to drug toxicity are preventable and I urge our political leaders at all levels to collaborate on a thoughtful, comprehensive plan that puts people first."

Some of the data released with the report provides additional notes related to the concerning rise in toxic drug deaths in the province.

The Full report released on January 24th can be reviewed here.

From the additional reports available for review from the Wednesday document, it's noted how Fentanyl continues its deadly march across the province, with 85 percent of all deaths in 2023 related to Fentanyl

Ten years ago, the then little known drug only had resulted in just under 15 percent of all deaths in BC

The BC Government responded to the Coroner's report on the same day of it's release with its own a statement Jennifer Whiteside Minister of Mental Health and Addictions  observed on the start number of deaths and noted of some of the government plans to address the challenges.

“Today, as we reflect on the year behind us, our hearts are heavy with the loss of 2,511 people in British Columbia to toxic drugs. Each of these lives was precious and important, each with their own story, their own dreams and people who love them. They were part of our community, and their loss is felt deeply by us all. 

My commitment to ending this crisis is unwavering. Our government is taking action to strengthen mental-health and addiction services across the spectrum of needs – from early intervention and prevention, to housing, to treatment and recovery. Our goal is to ensure that accessible, effective care is there for everyone, right when they need it."

“People need to be able to access treatment and recovery services close to where they live, without worrying about how to pay for it. This expansion nearly doubles the number of publicly funded treatment and recovery beds that we committed to, so people get the care and treatment they need, no matter how many times it takes.”

However as the government's own information release notes, less than 100 of those 180 beds are currently open, the rest are expected to be operational come this summer.

Some members the Legislature Media as well as from the Opposition party BC United noted that some of the announcement from Thursday was recycled news; with items noted from previous announcements on the treatment and recovery plans.

BC United leader Kevin Falcon also used the BC United response to note of his party's proposals for recovery, that a program called Better is Possible.

More notes on themes from Victoria can be reviewed from our Legislative archive page here.

A wider overview of how the report was received across BC can be explored through our political blog D'Arcy McGee and our Victoria Viewpoints page.

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