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B.C. sees fourth consecutive month with more than 100 overdose deaths

B.C. has reported another record-high monthly number of illicit drug deaths in June, with 175 drug toxicity deaths reported over the month.

June marks the second month in a row that B.C has broken its record for total illicit substance deaths.

“For the second month in a row, this province has experienced the highest number of deaths ever as a result of illicit substances with 175 lives lost, leaving behind grief and frustration while this public health emergency carries on into its fifth year,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner with the BC Coroners Service. “We know the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people who use drugs, as it has all British Columbians. Access to key harm reduction services has been a challenge and our social networks are smaller.”

In May of this year, 171 people died from illicit drugs, before that, the record was set in 2016, when 161 people died in December. As well, June marks the fourth month in a row that B.C. has seen more than 100 overdose deaths.

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“Today’s report clearly shows us that the tragedy of overdose deaths from the toxic street drug supply in B.C. continues to escalate. While much effort has been made to reduce harm, remove stigma and provide the care that people living with addiction need, the impacts of the pandemic have made the situation dire for too many,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “We remain focused on this critical work and will not let up. For the families who have lost loved ones, please know we too feel your loss. These are our brothers and sisters, our neighbours, our community members. All of us must reach out and let people who use drugs know they are not alone and there is help.”

According to the B.C. Government, toxicology reports suggest the number of cases involving extreme fentanyl concentrations, over 50 micrograms per litre, has gone up in April, May and June when compared to previous months.

The Province said the indigenous community is among the hardest hit by the crisis.

“Indigenous people continue to be disproportionately impacted by this worsening crisis. Real change is needed and we could begin with more of what works, namely harm reduction and a safe drug supply,” said Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer of the First Nations Health Authority. “In the meantime, let us be kind to those who use substances to escape the pain they are living with and lovingly remember those we have lost.”

So far in 2020, 728 British Columbians have died from illicit drug toxicity, as each health authority is at or near the highest monthly totals ever recorded.

Nine people have died in the East Kootenay so far in 2020, while one death was attributed to illicit substances in 2019.

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