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July worst month for toxic drug deaths in the East Kootenay

The BC Coroners Service reports 198 deaths in July due to a toxic drug supply, six of which occurred in the East Kootenay.
July was the worst month this year as the East Kootenay region reported six deaths due to the toxic drug supply. (File Photo)

The BC Coroners Service reports 198 deaths in July due to a toxic drug supply, six of which occurred in the East Kootenay.

July was by far the worst month of the year for toxic drug deaths in the East Kootenay, as well as across Interior Health’s jurisdiction.

The East Kootenay is also on pace to surpass the number of deaths reported in 2022.

Just over halfway through the calendar year, the East Kootenay has reported 16 deaths due to drug poisonings, while 18 deaths were reported last year.

Deaths by local communities is only updated once every four months; in Cranbrook, between January and April, the BC Coroners Service reports six deaths.

“I am saddened to once again report that British Columbia’s toxic drug crisis shows no signs of abating,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “We are continuing to experience record numbers of deaths provincewide because of the toxic drug supply. The unregulated illicit market is highly unpredictable and continues to put thousands of lives at risk each month.

“Despite recommendations for the urgent expansion of a safer drug supply, very few have access to a stable, lower-risk alternative.”

Provincially, the number of deaths are on pace to surpass last year’s grim record of 2,384 fatal overdoses caused by drug poisonings.

“Today’s release of the report on drug toxicity deaths for the month of July 2023 by the BC Coroners Service is a stark reminder that the ongoing toxic-drug crisis continues to have a devastating impact on communities across our province,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

“We hold in our hearts the memories of the 198 people lost in July in British Columbia - not as mere statistics, but as individuals who deeply matter to their loved ones and communities.

“We will continue to work relentlessly to combat this ongoing public-health emergency with a comprehensive approach that addresses both addiction and the toxic-drug supply. We are working hard to keep people safe by providing them with care and support.”

BC first declared the toxic drug crisis a public health emergency in 2016, and since then, thousands of deaths have been caused by the illicit drug supply.

Fatal overdoses have become the leading cause of deaths for people aged 10-58, accounting for more deaths than homicides, suicides, accidents and natural diseases combined, according to the BC Coroners Service.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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