Deaths from the use of illicit drugs continue to climb in British Columbia, with the B.C. Coroners Service reporting that in the 10 months ending on October 31, an average of two people died each day from overdoses. During that period 622 people died from overdoses caused by drug use, compared with 397 people in the same period in 2015.
In late November, an agreement was reached between the RCMP and the Chinese Ministry of Public Safety to work together to co-ordinate enforcement efforts against illegal fentanyl trafficking into Canada. Much of the fentanyl that circulates in the province originates in China.
However, a joint statement issued by Mike Morris (Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General) and Health Minister Terry Lake acknowledges that the overdose crisis is a “complex issue that no single tool will solve”.
The government has announced a $5 million boost to paramedics and dispatchers, in order for them to better address the growing opioid crisis. In the week of November 17 to 23, paramedics responded to 494 suspected overdose/poisoning events in Greater Vancouver alone, with 271 occurring in the Downtown Eastside.
The government has also launched a broad campaign to alert people how to prevent, identify, and respond to overdoses.
Most police officers in the province now carry naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose until the victim can receive medical attention, and take-home naloxone kits are available at hospitals, health clinics, and over-the-counter at pharmacies to people at risk of an overdose, as well as to their family members.
On the morning of December 2, Prince George RCMP and other emergency services responded to a report of an unresponsive male in a residence just north of Prince George.
An RCMP officer was the first person at the scene, and located an unresponsive, non-breathing man.
The officer recognized the symptoms of an opioid overdose and administered naloxone.
The man revived almost immediately and was taken to hospital for further treatment. He is expected to make a full recovery.
“The unfortunate reality is that fentanyl and derivatives are now commonplace in our community, and our members face the risk of contamination every day,” says Supt. Warren Brown, officer in charge of the Prince George RCMP.
“Our ability to possess and administer naloxone gives our members an added level of security for not only their safety, but also the safety of the community we serve.”