Over­doses across prov­ince hit record as preven­tion re­sources an­nounced

The Province - - NEWS - STEPHANIE IP sip@postmedia.com

B.C. paramedics have recorded their busiest month for over­doses since the health cri­sis be­gan in 2016.

Dur­ing July, paramedics were called out to 2,706 over­doses — about 87 over­doses a day — across the prov­ince, ac­cord­ing to new fig­ures from B.C. Emer­gency Health Ser­vices. It’s the high­est monthly num­ber of over­doses recorded since Novem­ber 2016 and since the public health emer­gency was de­clared four years ago. The av­er­age num­ber of over­doses han­dled by am­bu­lance paramedics is about 2,000 a month.

“There have been dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences for peo­ple who use sub­stances dur­ing dual public health emer­gen­cies,” said Judy Darcy, min­is­ter of Men­tal Health and Ad­dic­tions in a state­ment Tues­day.

“Last month saw a record num­ber of lives lost to over­dose — all the more heart­break­ing since be­fore COVID19 we had man­aged to bring deaths down for the first time.”

Darcy’s com­ments come as the prov­ince an­nounced the scal­ing up of over­dose preven­tion ser­vices, ex­panded ac­cess to a safe drug sup­ply and added new out­reach teams.

As part of the ex­panded mea­sures, 17 new su­per­vised con­sump­tion sites and 12 new in­hala­tion ser­vices are slated to open in com­mu­ni­ties hit the hard­est by the over­dose cri­sis. A to­tal of 42 ad­di­tional full-time reg­is­tered nurses, psy­chi­atric nurses, so­cial work­ers and peer sup­port work­ers are be­ing added to new and ex­ist­ing out­reach teams.

Ac­cord­ing to Emer­gency

Health Ser­vices, no com­mu­nity was safe from over­doses in July, with many hap­pen­ing in small com­mu­ni­ties across the prov­ince, though Van­cou­ver, Sur­rey and Vic­to­ria still recorded the largest num­ber of over­doses.

Of the over­doses recorded in July, 65.4 per cent were men com­pared with 34.4 per cent who were women, with the largest num­ber of over­doses recorded in the 21-40 age group. Paramedics are urg­ing peo­ple not to use drugs alone and to call 911 if some­one is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an over­dose.

In calls where a para­medic is able to re­spond, the in­di­vid­ual has a more than 95-per­cent chance of sur­vival.

DAR­RYL DYCK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

JUDY DARCY

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