Last year illicit drugs killed more people in the City of Vancouver than in any other year recorded since 1989.
In 2016, there were 215 fatal overdoses in Vancouver. The previous all-time high was set back in 1993, when there were 201 overdose deaths.
British Columbia also set a record for fatal overdoses, according to statitistics released today (January 18) by the B.C. Coroners Service. The province nearly doubled the previous high set in 2015.
Across B.C. last year, 914 people suffered a fatal overdose. That stands in contrast to 510 in 2015, 366 in 2014, 332 in 2013, and 269 in 2012.
The high of 914 deaths was reached with a spike in monthly overdoses that occurred toward the end of 2016.
In August of last year, 52 people died in B.C. of illicit drug overdoses, followed by 57 in September, 67 in October, 128 in November, and then 142 in December.
Numbers of deaths have climbed fastest in the cities that surround Vancouver.
Last year, there were 108 fatal drug overdoses in Surrey, 66 in Victoria, 48 in Kelowna, and 40 in Kamloops. All of those numbers are new records.
At a December 15 press conference, Vancouver mayor Gregor Roberston warned that the overdose epidemic would likely continue to grow more severe.
“It’s desperate times in Vancouver and it’s hard to see any silver lining right now when we don’t seem to have hit rock bottom with the number of people dying on any given day from an overdose,” he said. “We’re not able to tread water anymore. We’re losing way too many people. Harm reduction alone can’t solve this.”
At a press conference convened today to coincide with the release of new numbers, B.C. health minister Terry Lake announced an additional $16 million in funding for treatment services.
“We are experiencing one of the most tragic health crises of our time,” he stated in a media release. “But in this tragedy is a chance for us to turn a new page on how we help people with addictions.”