British Columbia Deaths Hit Record High

The Director of the NDPA, Peter Stoker, visited Vancouver East Side in 1999.  It was tragic to see drug dependent men and women living rough on the streets – in the alleys behind the main road – injecting in public.  A team of police officers called The Odd Squad worked the area and did everything they could to help these people – producing a great video called ‘Through the Blue Lens’ – we took this video into schools and it was the most powerful drug prevention message we had ever used.  We would urgently ask you to see this video on You Tube –

The article below is covering the same story – 19 years later.  Isn’t it about time that Canada began to promote good drug prevention instead of relaxing their drug laws? 

As overdose deaths spike, provincial health officials say more overdose prevention sites will soon open across the province.

The number of overdose deaths related to illicit drugs in British Columbia leapt to 755 by the end of November, a more than 70-per-cent jump over the number of fatalities recorded during the same time period last year.

In August, 50 people died of drug overdoses in British Columbia.  In September, 57 died. In October, the number jumped to 67 — an increase that worried health officials, who had thought that increasing the supply and training for administering the overdose reversal drug naloxone was making a difference.

In November, drug overdoses caused 128 deaths — 61 more than the previous month, and nearly double the October total. That spike has brought the total number of deaths between January and November to 755, the highest number ever recorded by the BC Coroner and a 70 per cent increase over this time last year

“We’re quite fearful that the drug supply is increasingly toxic, it’s increasingly unpredictable, and it’s very, very difficult to manage,” said Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s chief coroner, referring to the increasing prevalence of the synthetic opioid fentanyl being added to many illicit drugs.  “Those who…attempt to use drugs safely, it’s almost impossible.”

With advance notice from the coroner that November numbers would be much higher, provincial health officials announced three weeks ago that several overdose prevention sites would open in Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria. People can go inside the sites to inject drugs, and are given first aid if they overdose.

An unofficial safe consumption site located in the alley behind the Downtown Eastside Market off East Hastings Street.

Health officials have insisted the sites are temporary and are not supervised injection sites, which are currently difficult to open because of a strict Conservative-era law that current federal health minister Jane Philpott has promised to change.

If there is any good news to be found within the grim statistics, it is that no deaths have occurred at any of those overdose prevention sites. And no one has died at a volunteer-run tent that has been operating since September, without official permission or government funding, out of an alley in the heart of the Downtown Eastside. People can smoke or snort drugs at that site, not just inject.

“We’re pretty steady, we get about 100 people a day,” said Sarah Blyth, the Downtown Eastside market coordinator and one of the organizers of the tent. “We’re coming up to welfare (day)…it’s happening this Wednesday, so I imagine up until Christmas it’s going to be pretty busy.”

A sign on the front door of VANDU’s storefront at 380 E. Hastings advertises that the location is an overdose prevention site, with volunteers trained in first aid

“A lot of people use during Christmas,” Blyth added. “Not everybody’s Christmas is as happy as others.”  At the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users storefront further down East Hastings Street, Linda Bird confirmed the overdose prevention site located there has been busy, with around 60 people a day passing through. Volunteers, who are paid a small stipend by Vancouver Coastal Health, work two to four hour shifts. Overdoses are common, small stipend by Vancouver Coastal Health, work two to four hour shifts. Overdoses are a small stipend by Vancouver Coastal Health, work two to four hour shifts. Overdoses are common, Bird said.

“A lot of them are taking this very, very seriously,” Bird said of the volunteers. “It’s a crisis and a lot of them have seen their friends dropping.”

Vancouver Coastal Health has announced a fourth overdose prevention site in Vancouver, while Fraser Health has added more sites in Langley, Abbotsford and Maple Ridge.

Overdose deaths in November were nearly double the number seen in October

Health authorities in the Interior, Vancouver Island and the north are also planning to open sites in the future, said Perry Kendall, B.C.’s health officer.  “We’re still struggling in many communities with the idea of having these (overdose prevention) sites open,” Kendall said. “That doesn’t help.”

He urged the federal government to introduce the new legislation as soon as possible.

“You must use (drugs) in the presence of somebody who can help you,” Lapointe emphasized. “We are seeing people die with a naloxone kit open beside them, but they haven’t even had time to use it. We are seeing people die with a needle in their arm or a tablet nearby…You must go somewhere where someone is able to give you immediate medical assistance.”


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