2017 overdose deaths already surpass 2016 total, City of Vancouver estimates

VANCOUVER Police Department (VPD) reported three suspected overdose deaths for the week of August 7, bringing the total overdose deaths in the city to 232 so far this year, the City of Vancouver announced on Monday.

That is one more than the overdose deaths for the whole of 2016 reported by the BC Coroners Service.

At this rate, the City is anticipating more than 400 deaths by the end of the year.

While first responders and community organizations continue to make a positive impact, more funding and collaboration across all levels of government is needed to save lives, said the City.

“The rising number of overdose deaths this year is horrendous and absolutely heartbreaking,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “We will continue to work with the new provincial government and pour City resources into tackling this crisis. We can’t be complacent and let the number of deaths from this public health crisis be the new normal.”

As reported last week, first responders continue to handle an extreme volume of overdose response calls. Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services (VRFS) responded to 102 calls for the week of August 7, a slight decrease from the 114 reported the week prior. On average, the City’s first responders have received 135 calls weekly in 2017.

The City is calling on the federal and provincial government to make this public health emergency a top priority by addressing four key pillars of harm reduction, treatment, prevention and enforcement.  A few of the actions recommended to both levels of government include: creating a national regulatory framework for all illicit substances and exploring decriminalization; expanding addictions treatment including injectable options; increasing the number of overdose prevention sites to all communities in need; providing necessary services in supportive housing for people at risk for overdose; implementing drug checking technology and programs; and amending legislation for MSP to include coverage for evidence based, psycho-social addiction treatments.

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 the BC Coroners Services’ report on Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths in BC, January 1, 2007 to June 2017 here: