Panel releases recommendations as B.C. sees almost 4 deaths a day this February

B.C. saw 102 overdose deaths this February.
B.C. saw 102 overdose deaths this February. Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

A Death Review Panel is recommending the provincial government to regulate and oversee treatment and recovery programs and facilities as part of the fight against the overdose crisis.

This is one of three key recommendations from the report released on Thursday. The panel also recommends expanding the access to evidence-based addiction care, including opioid agonist therapies.

WATCH: Global News coverage of the B.C. overdose crisis 

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“The biggest problem we face in terms of overdose deaths is the recent increase in drug toxicity,” said panel chair Michael Egilson in a release.

“The potency and content of illicit substances is unpredictable; this is why we’re advocating for access to safer drug use.”

LISTEN: Simi Sara talks about the recommendations from the panel

The third recommendation asks the government to improve safer drug use and the creation of accessible provincial drug checking services.

READ MORE: B.C. marks 2017 as deadliest O.D. death year in provincial history

The panel was made of 21 experts from health care, policing, corrections, First Nations, education and mental health and addictions.

Marshall Smith, chair of the B.C. Recovery Council welcomed the panel’s recommendations, saying it was “about time” recovery was prioritized.

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Smith said B.C. has some of the world’s best private treatment facilities, but they’re not affordable to most. He said publicly funded care for people on the margins is also hard to access.

“[And] most importantly is the 90 per cent of people in between. We anecdotally refer to them as the walking wounded. They are out there, they can’t afford private care and they don’t qualify for public care, so often they continue to get sicker and sicker and are at risk.”

Smith said B.C. lacks a unified system of addiction care, something that he said the province could help achieve by stepping in to provide better support and regulation.

The report was released in conjunction with the number of drug overdoses for February, which saw 102 suspected drug overdose deaths across the province, according to the B.C. Coroners Service. That is almost four deaths a day.

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READ MORE: Civilians now being trained as first responders in effort to battle opioid crisis in B.C.

The numbers are down from February 2017, which saw 122 deaths, the majority of which took place in private residences.

Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria saw the highest number of deaths.

So far this year, 228 people have died from an illicit overdose. There were 1,422 overdose deaths in 2017.