312 people have died this year in City of Vancouver from a suspected overdose

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart
Photo by Sukhwant Singh Dhillon

CITY of Vancouver staff, in partnership with Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer at Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), presented an update to Vancouver’s new City Council on Tuesday which highlighted current City priorities for 2019 in relation to the opioid crisis.

This year, 312 people have died from a suspected overdose across the city*, with eight suspected overdose deaths last week – that’s one more than the weekly average for last year. This year’s numbers are similar to the numbers of confirmed overdose deaths at this point last year. In 2017, 309 people in Vancouver died from an overdose from January 1 to October 31.

Vancouver has been at the epicentre of a public health emergency which was declared in BC in 2016, following a significant increase in opioid-related overdose deaths. Tuesday’s update to Council identified the following priorities as essential to combatting the crisis devastating lives across the city:

–      Working with all partners including VCH, BC Centre for Disease Control, Vancouver Police Department and Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, people with lived experience and community groups to deliver critical services and to identify gaps and solutions

–      Monitoring the impact of the crisis on Vancouver’s residents and coordinating the response across City departments

–      Addressing stigma by increasing understanding of addictions as a public health issue in partnership with people with lived experience

–      Collaborating with the local community, and provincial and national partners on both a local and pan-Canadian response

Following the update, a motion was unanimously passed by Council for Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart to request urgent funding from the provincial government. The City will ask the Province to match the amount raised by the City through a 0.5 per cent tax increase approved in 2016. This raised approximately $3.5 million, and was allocated to support a response to the overdose crisis in 2017.

Toxicology reports on the most recent deaths are not yet complete, and final overdose death numbers need to be confirmed by the BC Coroners Service.

Read more about what the City has been doing in its response to the crisis here and see Tuesday’s presentation to Council  here.

Read the BC Coroners Services’ report on Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths in BC, January 1, 2008 to August 31, 2018 here.

*BC Coroners Service confirmed overdose deaths January 1 – August 31, VPD overdose-suspected deaths September 1 – November 11.