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Overdose statistics - May 2017


Fatal overdoses

According to the BC Coroners Service, from January 1 to April 30, 2017 there were 488 suspected overdose (OD) deaths due to illicit drug use across BC. 171 of the deaths occurred in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, including 144 in Vancouver, 12 in Richmond and 7 in Coastal Urban and 8 in Coastal Rural.

There were 136 suspected drug overdose deaths in April 2017 across BC. This is a 97% increase over the number of deaths occurring in April 2016 (69 deaths).

Overdoses in VCH urban areas

From January 1 to May 31, 2017 there were 3,626  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. 37% 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 (59%). 

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 May 31, 2017, there were 54,926 visits to the injection room at Insite. Among those, 1.4% visits resulted in an overdose. 11,296 visits used injection room in May 2017, that was 4.4% increase over the average number of visits in the previous 3 months (10,824 visits), and 15% decrease over the number of visits in May 2016 (13,264 visits). 158 visits resulted in an overdose in May 2017, which increased 5% compared to the average overdoses during the previous 3 months (150 overdoses), and 316% increase over the number of visits in May 2016 (38 overdoses).

Overdose Prevention Sites

Since December 2016 six overdose prevention sites opened in Vancouver, five of them are still operating. From December to May 31, 2017 there were 92,802 visits. 576 overdoses have been reversed. 

Just during May 2017, there were 25,652 visits with 101 overdoses reversals, that was a 46% increase on visits and an 8% decrease in overdose reversals over the average number in the previous 3 months.

Overdoses in VCH rural areas

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 May 31, 2017, 49 overdoses were reported, of which 45% were opioid related. The majority of ODs (82%) were reported from Sechelt Hospital.

What's happening

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:

  • Results of Insite drug checking project presented at International Harm Reduction Conference in Montreal. Media announcement got international coverage.

  • Health Canada approved VCH's application for a new supervised injection service at the Powell Street Getaway (528 Powell Street, Vancouver). An overdose prevention site has been operating at this location since December 2016.

  • VCH, along with partners Atira Women's Resource Society, the City of Vancouver, and BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre, opened BC's first overdose prevention site for women only.

  • VCH supported the International Symposium on Supervised Injectable Opiate Assisted Treatment

  • Overview of Opioid Emergency presented at BC Centre for Substance Use Addiction Research Day

  • Presented information at a public forum on the overdose crisis in Powell River

  • The Harm Reduction team attended the Under One Umbrella event and offered take-home naloxone training and kits

  • The Overdose Response Team collaborated with the Carnegie Community Centre around creating safer bathrooms

  • Facilitated a tour of the DTES for staff from Port Alberni, and discussed the opening of their new overdose prevention site

  • Naloxone Risk Assessment tool developed by provincial OD steering committee for places to determine their OD risk

  • Provided 159 training sessions on using naloxone 

  • Added four more sites where take-home naloxone kits are available, with a total of 108 sites now.  

  • Powell St. Getaway moved overdose prevention site OPS next door to 520 Powell St. temporarily while primary site undergoes renovations (expected completion end of June 2017)

  • VCH offering sponsorship opportunities to primary care physicians to attend Methadone 101 course and 2 week Addiction Preceptorships at St. Paul's Hospital.

Phot courtesy of Lookout Emergency Aid Society: The injection booths at Powell Street Getaway

SOURCE: Overdose statistics - May 2017 ( )
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