People hold banners during a march to remember those who died during the overdose crisis and to call for a safe supply of illicit drugs on International Overdose Awareness Day, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, August 31, 2021. British Columbia’s chief coroner says at least 1,011 people died from suspected illicit drug overdoses from January to June, the highest death toll recorded in the first six months of a calendar year during the province’s overdose crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

People hold banners during a march to remember those who died during the overdose crisis and to call for a safe supply of illicit drugs on International Overdose Awareness Day, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, August 31, 2021. British Columbia’s chief coroner says at least 1,011 people died from suspected illicit drug overdoses from January to June, the highest death toll recorded in the first six months of a calendar year during the province’s overdose crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

First 6 months of 2022 sees 23 drug deaths in Vernon

Province records highest number of toxic drug overdoses, 1,095

At least 1,095 people in B.C. died of toxic drug overdoses between January and June of this year — the highest number ever recorded in the first six months of a calendar year.

The latest data from the BC Coroners Service show that B.C. has surpassed 10,000 deaths since the province’s toxic drug supply was declared a public health emergency in April 2016.

Of those who have died, 78 per cent were men and 73 per cent were between the ages of 30 and 59. On average, more than six lives have been lost to illicit drugs every day this year.

A majority of the deaths occurred in the Fraser and Vancouver Health Authorities, making up 59 per cent of toxic drug deaths so far this year. However, rates do remain high across B.C. Northern Health reported a rate of death of 53 per 100,000 residents and four of five health authorities are reporting rates above the provincial average at 42 deaths per 100,000 residents.

In the Okanagan for the month of June there were 12 illicit drug toxicity deaths recorded. So far in Interior Health for 2022, there have been 178 illicit drug toxicity deaths compared to 375 by the same time last year.

Vernon saw 23 deaths from January to June this year, the 11th highest in the province. Kelowna saw 38, the sixth highest in B.C. below the highest number in Vancouver of 258.

“The ever-increasing toxicity of the unregulated, illicit drug market is taking a heart-breaking toll on the lives and well-being of members of our communities across the province,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “Deaths due to toxic drugs in the first half of 2022 have surpassed the number of deaths experienced in the same period in 2021, putting our province, once again, on track for a record loss of life.”

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Sheila Malcolmson released a statement expressing grief at the lives lost to toxic drugs.

She noted the government’s efforts to expand access to treatment and recovery across B.C. including additional substance use beds in the Okanagan, Nanaimo, Maple Ridge and Prince George.

“The coroner’s report shows how important our work is to reduce the risk of drug poisonings and to save lives. Clearly more is needed because increasing illicit drug toxicity has outstripped B.C.’s unprecedented addition of new overdose prevention services.”

READ MORE: More than 5 British Columbians died a day from toxic drug poisoning in March

READ MORE: Public input sought as committee examines B.C.’s toxic drug crisis


@SchislerCole
cole.schisler@bpdigital.ca

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