Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services recorded the highest number of overdose calls last week with the majority coming from the Dowtown Eastside (DTES).
According to the City of Vancouver, between Feb. 26 and March 5, they received 174 overdose calls, the highest number recorded in Vancouver to date this year.
While most of the calls were in the DTES, they also saw a rise in the cases from outside the downtown area.
Vancouver Police reported there were 14 suspected overdose deaths across the city last week; which is six more than the previous week.
The number of illicit overdose deaths was down in January in British Columbia, but the toll of 116 people is still the third-highest on record behind only the previous two months.
The BC Coroners Service said in February that most of those deaths involved people between the ages of 30 and 49 years old, and four out of five of them were male. Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said many of those who died are drug-dependent and didn’t succeed in getting off drugs through a variety of treatment programs.
“Drug overdose deaths in the fentanyl crisis continue to have a devastating impact throughout Vancouver,” Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a statement.
“The city shoulders a huge burden of the drug overdose response, and our first responders and front-line community workers are at a breaking point.”
In early March, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with first responders and health-care workers in Vancouver to discuss the illicit drug overdose crisis that has claimed 922 lives in British Columbia last year.
Trudeau said his government is taking the crisis seriously and monitoring the situation closely.
In his previous visit to B.C. in December, Trudeau said he met with people in the Vancouver’s DTES, who raised concerns about expanding hours for safe consumption sites. He said the recently announced $10 million of federal funds for the province is aimed at improving the response to the crisis.
But drug policy advocates are calling the government’s response to the overdose crisis “baffling and unacceptable”.
B.C. has been ground zero for an opioid overdose crisis precipitated in part by the arrival of the deadly opioid fentanyl, which led the province’s chief medical officer to declare a state of emergency last April.
~ with files from Canadian Press and Leslie Young.