B.C’s toxic illicit drug supply claimed 179 lives in October, according to the latest update from the provincial coroners service.
The report identifies one death from the East Kootenay and an additional two deaths in the Kootenay-Boundary area in the same month. Between the two health regions, 29 deaths have been reported this year.
The provincial total represents approximately six deaths per day as the death toll continues to keep pace with last year’s grim record of 2,267 lives lost as a result of the crisis.
“Despite the efforts of many, this public-health emergency continues to devastate families throughout our province,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “The increased toxicity and variability of the illicit drug supply has created an environment where everyone who uses substances is at risk. This vulnerability is even greater for individuals who live outside the urban centres where the limited number of safer supply programs are currently focused.”
Over 10,000 lives have been lost due to the toxic drug supply since a public health emergency was declared in 2016.
Sheila Malcolmson, the minister of mental health and addictions, touted government action to open treatment beds and facilities, as well as the pending release of a substance use system of care framework, which will guide development of new models of substance use care.
“Our government is expanding and evolving our response to this public-health emergency as we strive to stop the terrible loss of life to the poisoned drug supply,” said Malcolmson, in a news release. “While we have been adding new treatment and recovery services, expanding overdose prevention and working to end stigma about addiction, the increasing illicit drug toxicity has taken more lives.”
The BC Coroners Service releases deaths from toxic illicit drugs in smaller communities every four months. In the most recent update between Jan-Aug, six deaths have been reported in Cranbrook.