According to the BC Coroners Service, from January 1 to July 31, 2016 there were 433 overdose (OD) deaths due to illicit drug use across BC. Fentanyl was detected in 62% of them. 78 of the deaths occurred in Vancouver.
From January 1 to August 20, 2016 there were 3,775 illicit or unknown drug overdoses presenting to VCH emergency departments (ED). Nearly one quarter of them (882) were opioid related. 85% of them went to hospitals in Vancouver. The majority (69%) of them to St. Paul’s Hospital.
The substance isn’t known for almost half (45%) of all presenting overdoses. When the substance was known the most commonly patient-reported substance was heroin (20%).
The majority of overdoses occurred in males (68%) and those aged 19 to 59 years.
Approximately 9% of overdose patients were admitted to hospital while 74% of patients were discharged from the ED and 17% left against medical advice.
79% were from Vancouver, 8% were from Richmond, 10% were from Coastal Urban, and 3% were from Coastal Rural. The majority of Vancouver residents were from City Centre and the Downtown Eastside.
In VCH rural hospitals (Bella Coola General Hospital, RW Large Memorial Hospital, Sechelt Hospital, and Powell River General Hospital) OD reporting began in June 2016. Since then there have been 8 ODs reported, of which one was opioid related. Of these 8 OD’s, 3 were admitted, 2 were transferred, 2 were discharged and 1 resulted in death.
Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care are extremely concerned about the high number of overdoses and overdose deaths in our region and throughout the province and continue to take steps to respond.
VCH & PHC and its partners are taking a number of steps to reduce opioid/fentanyl-related overdoses, including new actions this month:
Extending Insite’s hours of operation so the facility is open 24 hours a day on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday on the weeks that social assistance cheques are distributed.
Offering clients at Insite to check their drugs for fentanyl.
Supporting International Overdose Awareness Day August 31 and participating in a local community event.
Adding new sites for people to obtain take-home naloxone kits, for a total of 65 sites to date. 13 of those sites have been added since the public health emergency was declared.
Started training emergency department staff in Bella Coola, Richmond Hospital, VGH and UBC Hospitals so that overdose patients may take take-home naloxone kits home with them upon discharge. Currently the kits are available in three of the 14 urgent care centres and emergency departments to date.
We are also finalizing several other strategies; details will be released in the coming weeks and months.
For a complete list of actions to date and info about overdose prevention such as how to use naloxone and where free take-home kits are available visit vch.ca/overdose.