Vancouver mayor, police chief renew call for drug treatment

published on November 1, 2017 by Violetta Kryak in the Voice

Vancouver’s mayor and police chief say they are seeing more drug treatment services become available but want the provincial government to take more action to stop the unprecedented number of overdose deaths.

Gregor Robertson said the city continues to see an average of seven overdose deaths per week, despite an increase in drug treatment options over the last year.

“At this point we are still seeing far too many people dying,” said Robertson after an Oct. 26 police board meeting. The mayor doubles as the board’s chairperson. “We are tracking the numbers every week and the tragedies continue.”

Unified plea

Almost a year ago, in December 2016, Police Chief Adam Palmer, the mayor and now-retired fire chief John McKearney made a unified plea for more treatment for drug users.

At the time, Palmer said there was a need for a long-term strategy to help people in crisis. On a regular basis, he noted, drug users seek out police and other first responders to find them immediate treatment for their addiction.

“We are going to see hundreds of people die this year in Vancouver — as has already happened — and this far surpassed the numbers that died last year, so we have been calling for more treatment,” Palmer said.

‘Tragedies continue’

According to the B.C. Coroners Service, there were 196 illicit drug overdose deaths in Vancouver from January to August 2017, compared to 124 last year for the same period. The deadly synthetic narcotic, fentanyl, was detected in 81 per cent of them.

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