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

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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.

Alexan­der Varty

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