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Northern Health records a dozen illicit drug deaths in July

The illicit drug crisis continues to take its toll on BC residents.

According to the BC Coroners Service, six people per day on average died from an overdose in July.

Northern Health recorded 12 fatalities during the month including three in Prince George.

So far in 2021, 77 people have lost their lives to illicit drugs in our health region, with 27 of those occurring in the Northern Capital.

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Furthermore, 208 residents in the north have died while using illicit substances since January of 2020 – that equates to about 11 deaths per month.

Province-wide, 184 lives were lost in July due to toxic illicit drugs. This is the second-largest number of fatalities ever recorded in a month – only June of 2020 had more (186).

“Clearly, the scale of this public health emergency requires an urgent, coordinated, and multi-faceted health-system response,” said Lisa Lapointe, Chief Coroner.

“Those at risk of dying come from all walks of life and live in every part of our province. If we truly want to save lives, an accessible range of solutions that reflects the breadth and scope of this crisis is urgently needed. This would include drug-checking services, safe consumption sites, meaningful access to life-saving safe supply, and the implementation of evidence-based standards of practice for the treatment of problematic substance use. The heartbreak being experienced by another five or six more families in our province each and every day cannot continue.”

There have been 1,204 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in BC between January and July of this year.

This is the highest number of deaths ever recorded in the first seven months of a calendar year and represents a 28% spike when compared to the same time frame in 2020.

72% of deaths this year were from people between the ages of 30-59.

The Coroners Service also confirmed this is the 17th consecutive month where at least 100 British Columbians have passed away from illicit drugs.

Northern Health has the second-highest drug toxicity rate out of all the health authorities in BC at 45.6 per 100,000 residents – a point and a half behind Vancouver Coastal at 47.2.

In terms of the Health Service Delivery Area, the Northern Interior, which encompasses PG-Quesnel-Burns Lake and the Robson Valley has a drug toxicity death rate of 41.8.

Vancouver is a whopping 28 points ahead with a rate of 70.

Our health authority also issued an overdose alert is which is being described as a green and chalky substance.

Since a public health emergency was declared in 2016, nearly 8,000 British Columbians have died from illicit drugs.

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