B.C. premier releases statement on eighth anniversary of drug crisis

2023 saw a record-setting number of 2,511 toxic drug deaths in the province, with no end in sight.

B.C. premier releases statement on eighth anniversary of drug crisis
The Canadian Press / Darryl Dyck
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It has been eight years since British Columbia declared the overdose crisis a public health emergency, which Premier David Eby said has had a "catastrophic impact” on the province.

"Every life taken by this crisis is a loss to our community — they are friends, parents, siblings and children. To the families, friends and loved ones: we see you, we stand with you and we share in your pain,” Eby wrote in a statement released on Sunday.

Eby said that the situation needs to be recognized as a health crisis.

“Our government is committed to saving lives and building a better, more connected system of mental-health and addiction care. This includes expanding access to two innovative made-in-B.C. models of care: the Red Fish Healing Centre model, which prioritizes trauma-informed care; and the Road to Recovery model, which helps patients move seamlessly through a full spectrum of treatment services,” Eby said.

"We are also expanding youth mental-health and addictions supports, including by partnering on a first-of-its-kind centre to support Indigenous youth with detox services."

“There is much more to do.”

Over the past eight years, over 14,000 individuals have been killed by toxic drugs since the declaration of the public health crisis. In BC the rate of overdose fatalities has doubled compared to 2016.

It’s been since May 2022 that BC announced it would decriminalize the possession of illicit drugs for personal use under 2.5 grams. The three-year exemption came into effect in January of 2023.

2023 saw 2,511 toxic drug deaths in the province, a new record.

In response to that tragic figure, B.C.'s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe renewed her plea for the expansion of "safer supply."

"Each day, coroners across B.C. go into communities and retrieve the bodies of the dead. More than 2,500 families who lost a loved one this year didn't know they'd be among the statistics. How many more will join these statistics next year?" she asked, according to the CBC.

“Decriminalization is not responsible for these deaths, illicit fentanyl is,” Lapointe claimed.

Overdose deaths in the province have seen a huge uptick since the federal Liberals implemented their drug strategy, which taxpayers have paid $1 billion for since 2017.

But still, it doesn't appear as though anyone in a position of power is ready to examine the possibility that "safer supply" isn’t actually safe.

Instead, policy makers seem so steadfast in their beliefs that now stipulations are in place to offer taxpayer-funded fentanyl to minors.

According to the B.C. Coroners Service's 2023 data:

- Of those who died, 77 per cent were male.
- 70 per cent were aged 30 to 59.
- Fentanyl was detected in 85.3 per cent of toxic drug death investigations, followed by meth and amphetamines at 46.9 per cent, and benzodiazepines at 40.2 per cent.
-Vancouver, Surrey, and Greater Victoria had the highest number of deaths.
- Northern Health was the region with the highest rate of deaths at 67 per 100,000 people.
- 80 per cent of the unregulated drug deaths occurred inside.
- Smoking was the most common form of consumption at 65 per cent, compared to injection and snorting, both at 14 per cent.
- One death occurred at an overdose prevention site.

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