There have been 17 illicit drug overdose deaths on north Vancouver Island in the first seven months of this year, according to a BC Coroners Service report released this week.
While the number is below the total of 37 deaths for all of 2017, Sarah Sullivan, manager of the Courtenay and Campbell River AIDs Vancouver Island locations, said it is still too early in the year to make any extrapolations.
“The numbers so far aren’t really much different, but we do have to wait and see. I’m hopeful they will be a little bit lower than last year.”
She noted so far this year, the organization hasn’t seen any significant change in numbers from last year, but added she believes the addition of overdose prevention sites has helped significantly.
“I would hate to see what the numbers would be without them.”
Sullivan said the sites are “definitely” making a difference, as their staff has assisted in reversing overdoses and are able to provide an immediate response, often just with oxygen.
The report considers illicit drugs as street drugs such as controlled and illegal drugs including heroin, cocaine, MDMA, methamphetamine and illicit fentanyl.
Within the province, there were 134 suspected drug overdose deaths in July 2018, which represents a 12 per cent increase in the number of deaths occurring in the same time last year.
The number of deaths in July equates to about 4.3 deaths per day for the month. The three townships experiencing the highest number of illicit drug overdoses in 2018 are Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria.
So far this year, 88 per cent of illicit drug overdose deaths occurred indoors (private residences, etc.), something which Sullivan said their outreach programs are hoping to assist.
“We want to work with the larger housing providers in the area and build the capacity within the community. There is such a stigma regarding illicit drug use, and that’s why so many people use alone.”