An organizer displays a naloxone kit that people can pick up for free as International Overdose Awareness Day training seminar takes place at Centennial Square in Victoria, B.C., on Saturday August 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

B.C. paramedics responded to a record-breaking 2,700 overdose calls in July

Province pledges $10.5 million for expansion of overdose prevention response

Paramedics in B.C. responded to more than 2,700 overdose calls in July, marking a grim record since the opioid crisis was declared in 2016.

That’s roughly 87 calls to suspected overdoses each day.

The BC Coroners Service has yet to release the total number of lives lost due to illicit drugs for July, but health officials have warned the stats will likely follow a concerning uptick in recent months – linked to an increasingly toxic drug supply.

As B.C. grapples with two health crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing overdoses wreaking havoc in all corners of the province – this summer has been particularly troublesome for fatal drug poisonings.

ALSO READ: In a pandemic, those on the front lines face unique mental health challenges

In June, 175 British Columbians died of overdoses, surpassing the previous May record of 170 deaths. Eleven of the fatalities in June involved carfentanil, typically used as an elephant tranquilizer, according to toxicology reports.

That brought the six-month total of deaths in 2020 to 728, compared to 543 during the same time period in 2019.

Seventy-two per cent of the deaths this year have involved street-level fentanyl, a powerful opioid.

B.C. responds to opioid crisis with boost in funding for overdose prevention

On Tuesday (Aug 4), the B.C. government announced $10.5 million in additional funding for an array of overdose prevention responses, including 17 new supervised consumption sites and 12 inhalation sites.

While overdose prevention sites allow for a quick response in communities where there are a spike in overdoses – typically created using mobile trucks or even tents – supervised consumption sites must be approved by Health Canada and are often more permanent structures.

The funding will also further scale up currently operating overdose prevention services, the government said.

Earlier this summer, the federal government gave B.C. the ability to direct physicians to provide legal prescription alternatives to people who use drugs as an alternative to the toxic street drug supply. The new funding will be used in-part to expand access for those at risk, by allowing nurses to help conduct patient assessments.

The province will be hiring 42 new full-time registered nurses, psychiatric nurses, social workers and peer support workers, as well, to join and expand overdose prevention outreach teams throughout B.C.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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