The toxic drug crisis in B.C. shows no signs of abating, as the BC Coroners Service reports 207 people died in the first month of the year due to the poisoned drug supply.
It is the fourth consecutive month with over 200 suspected toxic drug deaths, according to the BC Coroners Service.
While one quarter of the deaths in January were reported in Vancouver or Surrey, communities in Interior Health, such as Kamloops and Kelowna, reported 11 and nine deaths, respectively.
While the report didn’t identify fatal outcomes in smaller communities, the East Kootenay region reported three deaths.
“We know that illicit substances in our province are toxic and that those dependent on them are vulnerable to serious harms and death,”said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “Ensuring access to safer supply, establishing a substance use system of care, and turning the focus away from punishing and stigmatizing are critical steps to resolving this public health emergency.”
The latest update on toxic drug deaths from the BC Coroners Service comes days after the release of a report from a panel of experts in fields such as medical, legal, social welfare and others that affect public health and safety.
The Death Review Panel, convened by the BC Coroners Service, analyzed toxic illicit drug deaths between Aug. 1, 2017 - July 31, 2021, which has become the leading cause of unnatural death in the province.
The panel recommended a safe drug supply, decriminalization, evidence-based care for substance users, and the creation of a governance and management framework that includes targets and metrics to track government response and progress.
Health officials declared a public health emergency in response to the toxic drug crisis in 2016.
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