July 28, 2018 9:04 pm
Updated: July 28, 2018 9:07 pm

B.C. paramedics called to highest number of overdoses in a single day since April 2017

A man is revived from overdose by paramedics who used Naloxone in Kelowna in 2017.

Global Okanagan
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B.C. health officials say the record for the most overdose calls in a single day has been met once again.

Emergency Health Services announced Saturday that July 27 saw paramedics respond to 130 calls across the province. The only other time that number was achieved was more than a year ago, on April 26, 2017.

READ MORE: April’s ‘Welfare Wednesday’ single worst day for recorded overdose calls in B.C. history

No one died as a result of any of the overdoses, but health officials say the number is still deeply disturbing.

“Any number over 100 is much too high, but to hit 130 is not something we ever want to see,” Linda Lupini, executive vice president of BC Emergency Health Services, said.

Lupini said the highest numbers were in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions, with 48 and 46 suspected overdoses, respectively.

Seventeen calls were recorded in the Island Health region, followed by 16 in the Interior and three calls in the northern region.

READ MORE: Penticton vigilante group dumps water where drug users congregate to deter public use

Lupini said the spike was likely due to a number of factors, including a “high toxicity” in the street drug supply being reported by staff at supervised injection sites.

“Unfortunately when we see these spikes we see there’s no quality control being followed among a couple of producers,” Lupini said.

“There’s multiple producers all trying to get their product out on the street as quickly as possible, so we can’t predict when we’ll see another rise in calls.”

‘Welfare Wednesday’ warning

The spike also came two days after July’s so-called “Welfare Wednesday,” the day at the end of each month when social assistance cheques are handed out.

A 2016 study from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control found overdose deaths were 40 per cent higher during the last week of each month, with the largest spikes happening within the two days after cheques were distributed.

READ MORE: Victoria police got so many overdose calls overnight they ran out of naloxone

The report recommended government either stagger the cheques throughout the month, or issue smaller cheques more frequently. That recommendation has been echoed by police chiefs in some jurisdictions, including Victoria.

WATCH BELOW: Victoria police chief calls for staggered welfare cheques

Removing stigma

Lupini pointed out the number of overdose calls are starting to level out month-to-month for the most part, but the number of calls recorded by paramedics doesn’t reflect the actual number of overdoses per day.

That’s because many more overdoses happen when addicts use alone, or among people who are able to administer naloxone or otherwise revive victims without needing to call an ambulance.

READ MORE: Drug deaths down in May in B.C. compared to a year earlier

“We need to remove the stigma surrounding addiction that makes people think they should use alone,” Lupini said.

She added that the leveling-off of overdose numbers shows “a lot of good work” is being done to keep people alive.

“Now we have to look at what we do next to bring those numbers down,” she said. “Because this is still a crisis.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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