NEWS No end in sight for overdoses T
The B.C. Coroners Service’s latest monthly report paints a grim picture Travis Lupick There were 98 fatal overdoses in British Columbia in August, according to the latest report from the B.C. Coroners Service. Photo by Travis Lupick
he B.C. Coroners Service’s latest monthly report on the province’s drug-overdose crisis once again suggests there is no end in sight.
The report, which covers to the end of August 2018, states there were 98 fatal overdoses in B.C. that month.
It brings the total for the year to 972, which equates to a projected 1,458 for all of 2018. That compares to 1,452 in 2017 and 993 the year before that.
In 2018, the rate of fatal overdoses for the city of Vancouver stands at 56.1 per 100,000 people—an astronomical figure that is now almost 10 times what the rate of overdoses was for Vancouver 10 years earlier (6.1 per 100,000 in 2008).
“The three townships experiencing the highest number of illicit drug overdoses in 2018 are Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria,” the document reads.
It notes that 98 deaths in August is down 27 percent from the previous month and down 20 percent from August 2017. However, 98 overdose deaths in a single month is still miles above what was once considered “normal”. B.C.’S crisis has plateaued. During the first eight months of 2018, there was an average of 121.5 deaths per month. During the previous year, the average was 121.
Compare these numbers to five years earlier, when, in 2013—the year the dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl arrived in B.c.—there was an average of 27.6 overdose deaths per month, and to 2012, when there were 22.8.
A separate report released by the coroners service last week (September 27) provides the clearest picture yet of the sorts of citizens these statistics represent.
The investigation’s main findings: • 77 percent of people who died of a drug overdose were “regular or chronic users” of illicit drugs;
• 79 percent had contact with the health-care system during the year preceding their death; of those, 56 percent had sought treatment for physical pain;
• 81 percent were male;
• 44 percent were employed at the time they died; • 72 percent lived in a private residence, while 13 percent lived in supportive or social housing, and only nine percent were homeless; • 69 percent were alone when they used the drugs that killed them; • and 65 percent had never been married (compares to 27 percent of B.C.’S adult population).
The data sample analyzed for the report consisted of 872 illicit-drugoverdose deaths that occurred in B.C. in 2016 and 2017.
An earlier report published in August 2017 states that from February 2015 to July 2016, Indigenous people in B.C. were three times more likely to die of a drug overdose than nonindigenous people.
Indigenous women were found to be especially vulnerable. The document states that Indigenous women were eight times more likely to overdose and five times more likely to suffer a fatal overdose compared to non-indigenous women.
According to the coroners service’s latest monthly report, fentanyl was associated with 81 percent of overdose deaths during the first six months of 2018 and 84 percent of deaths in 2017.
“Illicit fentanyl–detected deaths appear to account for the increase in illicit drug overdose deaths since 2012 as the number of illicit drug overdose deaths excluding fentanyl-detected has remained relatively stable since 2011,” the report reads.
“A review of completed cases from 2016-18 indicates that the top four detected drugs relevant to illicit drug overdose deaths were fentanyl (76%), cocaine (48%), methamphetamine/ amphetamine (31%), and heroin (23%).”
B.C.’S chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, is quoted in the report as encouraging people who choose to use drugs to do so in as safe a manner as possible.
“Illicit drugs continue to be the source of more than three deaths per day in B.C.,” Lapointe says. “Our expanded analysis confirms that more than two-thirds of these illicit drug deaths in 2016 and 2017 involve people using alone and indoors. We know this leads to a higher risk for death with a toxic drug supply.
“We continue to urge those using substances to plan to take them in the company of someone who can provide help: administering naloxone and calling 911 for assistance.”
JAZZ IN VANCOUVER has a surprisingly long history, predating even the legendary pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton’s 1919–21 residency at the Patricia Hotel’s lounge. A century later, that locale is still a jazz venue, but other rooms and even entire genres of jazz have all but disappeared here, leaving little in the way of documentary evidence. Evanescent in its nature, a discipline of being in the moment, jazz is and should be resistant to codification.
Which, of course, doesn’t mean that its artifacts can’t be collected and cherished, or its history written down. Too little of that work has been done in this city, and University of Edinburgh lecturer Marian Jago’s Live at the Cellar, which sports the unwieldy subtitle Vancouver’s Iconic Jazz Club and the Canadian Co-operative Jazz Scene in the 1950s and ’60s, is a welcome start.
The original Cellar, as opposed to saxophonist Cory Weeds’s now-shuttered nightclub, was a basement room at 2514 Watson Street, near the intersection of Broadway and Main Street. From 1956 to 1963 it was a number of different things: a collectively managed workshop space for progressive musicians; a venue for cutting-edge imports such as Wes Montgomery, Ornette Coleman, and Charles Mingus; and perhaps most importantly, a local launching pad for the kind of interdisciplinary thinking that would blossom here in the later 1960s.
As such, Live at the Cellar deserves an audience beyond jazz aficionados: in a town that tends to endlessly reinvent the wheel, it tells how the first wheel was forged. Or, as Jago puts it in her lengthy, sociological introduction, “Even once a scene has lost its power.…the social connections formed through participation in scenes do much to enable the social interactions upon which urban living depends.” Sixty years on, those connections, however attenuated, still animate artist-run underground venues such as Merge, Sawdust Collector, and 8EAST.
That link isn’t explicitly made in Live at the Cellar, but its collected anecdotal accounts sound uncannily familiar. When drummer Chuck Logan says that the Cellar was “the school of music” where young musicians could learn to be their best selves, he could be talking about any of the above “listening rooms”—and it’s this contemporary resonance that might be Jago’s greatest contribution to improvised music in Vancouver. It’s wonderful to hear about the early days of such significant cultural figures as pianist and interdisciplinary artist Al Neil, internationally acclaimed drummer Terry Clarke, and the gifted but doomed saxophonist Dale Hillary—but what really should be taken away from this book is that scenes such as theirs are what produce culture, and as such deserve more civic and media support than they presently get.