A spike in overdose deaths that began in August continued through to the end of November, surging above anything B.C. has ever seen before.
According to the latest B.C. Coroners Service preliminary data released today (December 19), there were 128 fatal drug overdoses across the province last month.
That's an all-time high for a single month in 30 years of record keeping.
Last August, 49 people died of illicit drug-overdoses across B.C. Then 57 in September, 63 in October, and now 128 last month.
It's now projected that 818 people will die of illicit drugs in 2016, based on data for the first 11 months of the year. The dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl has been detected in more than 60 percent of 2016 deaths.
At a press conference in Victoria, B.C.'s chief coroner, Lisa LaPointe, warned there are already signs the situation beyond November could continue to get worse.
"December is looking like a very bad month," she said.
The B.C. minister of public safety and solicitor general released a statement in response to the November numbers.
“Government and numerous partners have put an enormous amount of effort to stem the alarming increase," said Mike Morris, quoted there. "We must redouble our efforts, because behind each of those numbers is a person with friends and family who are forever impacted."
He said the province is continuing with work announced earlier this month to establish "overdose prevention sites" across B.C. and make more beds available for addiction treatment. Three of those new sites, which essentially operate like Vancouver's supervised-injection facility, Insite, have already opened in Vancouver. Similar sites are opening soon in Surrey, Victoria, and Kamloops.
"A lot more action has been taken just in the past few weeks, and we know we still have a lot work ahead of us," Morris said. "The statistics released by the BC Coroners Service today show this work has never been more important, and we will continue to do everything we can here in B.C. to combat this crisis.”
By the end of November, B.C. had seen 755 illicit-drug-overdose deaths. That's up from 510 during all of last year, 366 in 2014, 330 in 2013, 273 in 2012, and 292 in 2011.
From 2000 to 2010, the number of fatal overdoses in B.C. remained relatively stable, at an average of 207 per year.
Before 2015, the previous all-time high for overdose deaths in B.C. in a single year was set in 1998, when there were 400.