During the week of June 12, Vancouver Police Department (VPD) reported five overdose deaths, up from four reported the previous week. Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services (VFRS) also reported an 18 per cent increase in calls for the same period, for a total of 112, up from 95 the week prior. LifeLabs is also reporting this week a 21 per cent carfentanil positivity rate in patient urine samples containing fentanyl. This is a significant increase from the six to eight per cent recorded in February and March and presents an extreme risk to the public.
“In the 14 months since being declared a public health emergency, the BC government has failed to make a clear commitment to halt the fentanyl crisis and save hundreds of people from preventable drug overdose deaths,” says Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Four British Columbians die every day from overdoses, yet the crisis barely warranted a mention in yesterday’s Throne Speech. We need a provincial government with a bold, tenacious approach and the courage to dramatically improve prevention, education and addictions treatment, with dedicated resources into opioid substitution therapy, treatment on demand, and other essential services for everyone who needs it, when they need it.”
With the tainted drug supply steadily increasing, this crisis is a risk to casual drug users as well as to those struggling with addictions.
Our city has been besieged by this crisis for over a year, and it is clear that new strategies are needed. Making drug testing technologies available to users has the potential to improve awareness of risks of exposure to fentanyl and carfentanil, reduce the proliferation of tainted substances, and ultimately help to reduce overdose deaths.
More upstream attention is needed as well. This week, B.C.’s Provincial Health Minister, Dr. Perry Kendall, wrote an open letter encouraging parents to have frank conversations with their children about drug experimentation, especially in light of graduation and the end of the school year.
As released last week, Vancouver is on pace for more than 430 overdose deaths by the end 2017. The City looks forward to the provincial government returning to the Legislature this week, and continues to urge all levels of government to make this public health emergency a top priority. Toxicology reports on the most recent deaths are not yet complete and final overdose death numbers need to be confirmed by the BC Coroners Service.
Read the BC Coroners Services’ report on Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths in BC, January 1, 2007 to April 2017 here.