According to the BC Coroners Service, from January 1 to May 31, 2017 there were 640 suspected overdose (OD) deaths due to illicit drug use across BC. 212 of the deaths occurred in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, including 179 in Vancouver, 13 in Richmond and 11 in Coastal Urban and 9 in Coastal Rural.
There were 129 suspected drug overdose deaths in May 2017 across BC. This is a 158% increase over the number of deaths occurring in May 2016 (50 deaths).
From January 1 to June 30, 2017 there were 4,306 illicit or unknown drug overdoses at VCH emergency departments (ED). Opioids accounted for 33% of the visits with heroin being the most commonly reported substance. 38% of the overdose visits were due to an unknown substance.
88% of the overdoses were seen at Vancouver EDs. The majority (74%) of them went to St. Paul's Hospital.
The majority of overdoses occurred in males (71%) and those aged 19 to 39 years (58%).
Of overdose patients to VCH urban EDs, 47% live in Vancouver, 4% were from Richmond, 5% were from Coastal Urban, and 2% were from Coastal Rural. The majority of Vancouver residents were from City Centre and the Downtown Eastside. The remaining patients live in other health authority regions or didn't state where they are from.
From January 1 to June 30, 2017, there were 65,525 visits to the injection room at Insite. Among those, 1.4% visits resulted in an overdose. 10,599 visits used the injection room in June 2017, that was 4.5% decrease over the average number of visits in the previous 3 months (11,097 visits), and 17% decrease over the number of visits in June 2016 (12,770 visits). 117 visits resulted in an overdose in June 2017, which declined 24% compared to the average overdoses during the previous 3 months (154 overdoses), and 121% increase over the number of visits in June 2016 (53 overdoses).
Since December 2016, six overdose prevention sites opened in Vancouver, five of them are still operating. From December to June 30, 2017 there were 126,635 visits. 633 overdoses were reversed.
In June alone, there were 25,826 visits with 57 overdose reversals, that was a 6% increase in visits and an 50% decrease in overdose reversals over the average number in the previous 3 months (115 overdoses).
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. From January 1, 2017 to June 30, 2017, 53 overdoses were reported, of which 45% were opioid related. The majority of ODs (77%) were reported from Sechelt Hospital.
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:
- The Real-time Drug Alert and Response System (RADAR) is now up and running. Anyone can report, either via texting or a website, overdoses that show unusual symptoms so that warnings about bad batches of drugs can be circulated largely.
- Equipped two more sites, Atira Women’s Resource Society, Richmond MCFD Youth Services Team, with take-home naloxone kits for distribution.
- Trained more than 13 sites and organizations on overdose prevention and how to use naloxone. Total of 172 sessions to date.
- Equipped more locations, to a total of 162, with a Facility Overdose Response Box (FORB).
- Trained the new overdose prevention site, SisterSpace, on overdose prevention site management.
- Started training staff at the Powell Street Getaway, in preparation for it to be a supervised injection service.