B.C. overdose deaths drop in June, more than 100 still dying each month

published on August 2, 2018 by Amy Smart in The Globe and Mail

The latest overdose statistics in British Columbia show a dip in the number of suspected illicit drug deaths in June compared with the same month a year earlier, but the death toll remains high.

More than 100 British Columbians are dying of overdoses each month, or more than three people every day, the BC Coroners Service said Thursday.

There were 105 illicit drug overdose deaths in June, a drop from 123 in the same month last year. About 80 per cent of the fatalities are male and 71 per cent are between the ages of 30 and 59 years old.

“That’s unacceptably high. It’s absolutely a public health crisis and it needs to be met with appropriate policy responses,” said Dr. Ryan McNeil, a research scientist with the BC Centre on Substance Use and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s department of medicine.

The overdose crisis in B.C. has led to a number of new programs aimed at reducing deaths.

McNeil is part of a team of experts at both the centre and the university recommending a new approach to dealing with overdoses in Vancouver’s single-room-occupancy buildings amid positive results from a project where tenants and landlords were given overdose response training.

While the statistics show 60 per cent of the fatal overdoses happened in private homes, it’s unknown what proportion of those occurred in the single-room buildings.

The buildings were identified as high-risk places for overdoses by the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health, said McNeil, who was the senior author of a report on the tenant-training project.

The buildings are home to some of the city’s most marginalized and isolated residents and can be difficult places to access for public-health workers, he said.

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