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Fentanyl likely reason for steep increase in Kelowna overdose deaths

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. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Kelowna is on its way to setting a new record for fatal drug overdoses in a single year.

Twenty-four people lost their lives to illicit drug use in the city during the first three months of 2017.

There were 47 fatalities in all of 2016 according to a report released Wednesday by the BC Coroners Service.

The 120 suspected overdose deaths province-wide in March is a 52 per cent increase over the 79 deaths in the same month last year.

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The service says fentanyl appears to account for the alarming increase in deaths since 2012 which jumped from less than 300 to more than 900.

“The introduction of illicit fentanyl to the illegal drug market has had devastating results, with literally scores of our community members dying in their homes across the province,” said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe in a news release.

“It has been just over a year since the provincial health officer’s declaration of a provincial health emergency and, while harm reduction measures now in place are reversing thousands of overdoses, long-term measures to stem this tide must include meaningful education beginning at an early age and evidence-based treatment.”

Almost 83 per cent of those killed so far this year are men aged 30-49 with just over half dying in private residences.

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The Coroners Service says there were no deaths at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.

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