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Kootenay paramedics responded to over 800 overdose calls in 2023

The toxic drug crisis in B.C. continues to take a heavy toll on our paramedics, including here in the Kootenays. 

According to year-end data from BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), local medics in Trail, Castlegar, Creston, Nelson and Grand Forks responded to 822 overdose calls combined in 2023, up from 485 in 2023.   

Leading the province in call volume was Vancouver (10,526), Surrey (3,131), Kelowna (2,274), Victoria (2,264), and Nanaimo (2,136). 

Like some cities in B.C., overdose and drug poisoning calls have seen a steady climb since a public health emergency was called by the provincial government in 2016. 

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Even more alarming, the yearly breakdown has seen a steady rise in Kootenay communities over the last six years.  

Trail: 

  • 2018 – 44 
  • 2019 – 41 
  • 2020 – 51 
  • 2021 – 106 
  • 2022 – 90 
  • 2023 – 223 

Castlegar:  

  • 2018 – 15 
  • 2019 – 31 
  • 2020 – 17 
  • 2021 – 33 
  • 2022 – 44 
  • 2023 – 30 

Nelson: 

  • 2018 – 56 
  • 2019 – 59 
  • 2020 – 53 
  • 2021 – 47 
  • 2022 – 108 
  • 2023 – 225 

Grand Forks:  

  • 2018 – 27 
  • 2019 – 22 
  • 2020 – 23 
  • 2021 – 44 
  • 2022 – 45 
  • 2023 – 66 

Creston:  

  • 2018 – 11 
  • 2019 – 8 
  • 2020 – 8 
  • 2021 – 11 
  • 2022 – 27 
  • 2023 – 16 

Cranbrook:  

  • 2018 – 75 
  • 2019 – 78 
  • 2020 – 104 
  • 2021 – 192 
  • 2022 – 171 
  • 2023 – 262 

In 2023, BCEHS paramedics responded to 42,172 toxic drug poisoning events for the year, an average of 116 calls a day. 

The average monthly calls are more than 3,500 per month. BCEHS experienced 11 months with more than 3,000 overdose/poisoning calls in 2023. 

The total number of responses to overdoses/poisonings represented an increase of 25% from the previous year. 

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