Minister’s statement on BC Coroners Service report on deaths from illicit drug overdoses

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The BC Coroners Service’s 2018 Data Release for illicit Drug Overdose Deaths in British Columbia has stated that in 2018, 1,489 people died by overdose due to a poisoned, unregulated drug supply. In response, Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, has released the following statement:

“My heart goes out to every family that has lost a loved one to overdose. This crisis truly shows us that people from all walks of life – professionals, people living in poverty, tradespeople and many other sectors – are all affected by addiction.

“The Province’s commitment is stronger than ever to work every single day with all of our partners to escalate our response so we can save more lives. We can never lose sight of the fact that the overdose crisis represents real people – and real families – from communities throughout B.C.

“By the end of this day, four people will die from an overdose in British Columbia. Most of these people will die alone – with no one beside them, no one to call for help. Each life lost is an unspeakable tragedy.

“We are using every possible available tool to save lives, including a first-in-Canada pilot project at the St. Paul’s Hospital emergency department that provides people who have survived an overdose with take-home doses of suboxone and a well-defined treatment plan. This helps to stabilize people with opioid use disorder, ensuring they are connected to a safe alternative to toxic street drugs.

“We estimate our strategies have averted 4,700 deaths due to life-saving supports in place around the province. This includes scaled-up distribution of naloxone, more overdose prevention sites and better access to opioid agonist treatment.

“As we look to the year ahead, we will continue to work closely with our partners to save lives and increase access to mental-health and addictions services and supports. We are working with, engaging with and listening to the valuable advice of people with lived experience and of all those on the frontlines.

“I’d like to thank the BC Coroners Service for this important work. These reports are critical in helping us understand this crisis, in which health authorities and cities are most impacted, and how we can best reach out to those in need.

“I want to acknowledge the commitment and heroic efforts of those who are on the frontlines saving lives and connecting people to treatment and social supports. To all of the community workers, first responders, health-care professionals, peers and families – I applaud you for your dedication to helping British Columbians at a time in their lives when they need it most.

“I know that by continuing to work together, we will turn the tide on this crisis for people and families throughout British Columbia.”

A backgrounder follows with key actions taken by the British Columbia government.