B.C. Liberal Mental Health and Addictions Critic Jane Thornthwaite on Wednesday expressed deep concern about the rising number of overdose deaths in B.C., highlighted in the updated Illicit Drug Toxicity Report released by the B.C. Coroners Service.
“The impacts of COVID-19 continue to be felt across communities throughout British Columbia as this marks the second straight month of overdose death increases since the start of the pandemic,” said Thornthwaite. “While it is important to note that the number of people overdosing has been increasing over the past few years, COVID-19 has meant more people are using alone and without the same level of support around them, which has resulted in fewer people reaching lifesaving services such as naloxone.”
The report found that April 2020 was the deadliest month for illicit drug overdoses in over 13 months. Additionally, the recorded overdose deaths in April showed a four per cent increase over the number of deaths compared to the previous month.
“Harm reduction approaches such as overdose prevention sites and greater distribution of naloxone kits are saving lives but, with overdose rates higher than ever, they alone are not enough to break the cycle of addiction,” said Thornthwaite. “While services are available to help those in need, during COVID-19 many have not felt comfortable reaching out for help and unfortunately we have seen that result in a higher death toll. Ultimately government needs to focus on filling the gaps in the system for those seeking treatment and recovery options, so that we can once and for all end the cycle of addiction. COVID-19 has only reaffirmed the urgent need for a seamless continuum of care.”
As the number of overdose deaths continues to increase, it’s more important than ever for government to invest in a seamless mental health and addictions system.