Cranbrook is on pace to set a grim and tragic record, as the B.C. Coroners Service reports 14 drug poisoning deaths in the community in the first eight months of 2023.
In contrast, Cranbrook reported 16 deaths in 2021 — the highest on record — as the crisis continues to worsen in communities across the province.
Between January and August, the East Kootenay region reported 18 deaths, of which Cranbrook represents the majority of those fatal overdoses.
Provincially, the toxic drug crisis is tracking to be the worst year on record, eclipsing last year’s grim tally of 2,383 deaths. In the first eight months of the year, the B.C. Coroners Service reports 1,645 deaths, a six per cent increase from the same time period last year.
In August, 174 toxic drug deaths were reported in B.C., representing a 14 per cent decrease from July’s total.
“We are continuing to lose members of our communities in heartbreaking numbers as a result of the toxicity of the illicit drug market,” said Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s chief coroner, in a press release. “No town, neighbourhood or family is immune from this crisis and as the years of this public-health emergency go by, more and more British Columbians are experiencing the devastating loss of a friend, colleague or family member to the illicit-drug supply.”
Mental Health and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside acknowledged the devastating impacts of the crisis in communities across the province.
“After hearing first-hand from municipal leaders at the recent Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention, it is clear that communities across B.C. are grappling with the devastating effects of the toxic-drug crisis.,” Whiteside said, in a statement. “Mayors, councillors and local advocates shared stories that underscore the urgency and complexity of what we’re facing. This crisis knows no boundaries. It is a shared challenge that calls for a united approach from all levels of government.
“We are committed to continuing our work with local governments to address the challenges in their communities.”
In 2016, B.C. declared a public health emergency in response to rising fatal overdose deaths attributed to the illicit toxic drug supply.
Since that declaration, thousands of people have died due to drug poisonings, and has become the leading cause of death for people aged 10-59, accounting for more deaths than homicides, suicides, accidents and natural diseases combined.