There were 10 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in the Cranbrook local health area in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service, as the province experienced the worst year on record for fatal overdose outcomes.
Provincially, the BC Coroners Service reported 1,716 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths last year, a 74 per cent increase from 2019, based on data from a report released on Feb. 11.
Regionally, 18 suspected overdose deaths were reported in the East Kootenay; three in both the Fernie and Windermere areas, and one in Creston.
“The impacts of COVID-19 highlighted the immensely precarious situation of those experiencing problematic substance use in our province” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, BC Coroners Service, in a news release. “Decades of criminalization, an increasingly toxic illicit drug market and the lack of timely access to evidence-based treatment and recovery services have resulted in the loss of thousands of lives in B.C. It’s clear that urgent change is needed to prevent future deaths and the resulting grief and loss so many families and communities have experienced across our province.”
Along with the B.C. Coroners Service data, the B.C. Emergency Health Services recently reported responding to 104 overdose-related calls in Cranbrook last year.
According to the BC Coroners Service, fentanyl continues to be detected in over 80 per cent of illicit drug toxicity deaths, while cocaine and methamphetamine were the next most commonly detected drugs.
In addition to the February report on last year’s data, the province also recently released updated overdose information for the first month of 2021.
The province reported 165 deaths due to illicit drug toxicity in January, the highest number of deaths in the month of January in over a decade. The East Kootenay region reported one overdose death in January.
“These figures are heartbreaking, both in scale and for the number of families who are grieving the loss of a loved one,” said Lapointe. “In the fifth year of this public health emergency, there is virtually no community in the province that hasn’t been touched by this devastating loss of life.”
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