As B.C. health officials reported more grim COVID-19 numbers Thursday, paramedics released sobering data showing the province’s other health crisis shows no signs of slowing down.
According to BC Emergency Health Services, paramedics responded to the province’s highest single-day number of overdose calls in B.C.’s history on Wednesday.
Crews were tasked to 138 potential overdoses, 45 of them in Vancouver, 17 of them in Surrey, 10 in Victoria and 66 across the rest of the province.
B.C. marked the five-year anniversary of the official designation of its overdose crisis as a public health emergency on April 14.
In that time, more than 7,000 people have died of suspected illicit drug overdoses, driven by rampant toxicity in the supply of street drugs.
In 2020 alone, more than 1,724 people died of toxic drugs, while at least 329 deaths in the first two months of 2021 have been attributed to the same cause.
Drug users, policy experts and government officials say the COVID-19 pandemic has only served to exacerbate the crisis.
Earlier this month, the B.C. government said it would seek a federal exemption from Health Canada to decriminalize the personal possession of drugs.
The province has also taken steps to allow some health-care workers to prescribe pharmaceutical alternatives to street drugs, but advocates say the process has been far too slow to roll out.