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175 lives lost to toxic drug poisoning in B.C. in September, 82 on Island and Coast

The BC Coroners Service says a further 175 people lost their lives to toxic drug poisoning in September, including 82 between Vancouver Island and the South Coast.

The statistics revealed today mean around 5.8 people died every day in September. Vancouver Island had one of the highest drug death rates at 3.8 per 100,000 people, tied with Vancouver Coastal Health.

A total of 1,836 people have died year to date, according to the service. The highest death rate was recorded in Northern B.C., with 61.7 deaths per 100,000.

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Twenty-one deaths have been recorded in the Comox Valley, 31 in the Cowichan Valley, 31 in Greater Campbell River, 86 in Greater Nanaimo, six in Powell River and six on the Sunshine Coast up to August this year, according to the report.

The report also shows smoking is the most common form of consumption at 71 per cent in September.

“It is with a heavy heart that B.C. continues to lose loved ones throughout our communities,” said mental health and addictions minister Jennifer Whiteside.

“Even though this number is down slightly from the same time last year and the previous month, we can’t forget we’re not just talking about statistics. We’re talking about irreplaceable people. Every day, families, friends and communities are navigating tides of deep grief and trauma in the wake of lost loved ones.”

The service says its death review panel has recommended the province pursue additional measures to expand access to safer supply. The measures include:

  1. Ministry of mental health and addictions to take steps for a class exemption to the controlled drugs and substance act to allow access without a prescription to the class of opioid and stimulant drugs. 
  2. Develop an application for agencies to apply for licensure and delegated authority to distribute the regulated substances on a non-prescription basis. 
  3. Ministry to engage with people with lived and living experience with substance use and family/caregivers in the process of planning. 
  4. Further fund, support and engage with Indigenous leadership to identify Indigenous solutions to the crisis. 

The province adds that unregulated drug toxicity is the leading cause of death in B.C. for persons aged 10 to 59, and at least 13,112 people have been lost since it was declared an emergency in 2016.

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