In the photo: Staff at Insite continue to offer drug checking for fentanyl.
According to the BC Coroners Service, from January 1 to September 30, 2016 there were 555 overdose (OD) deaths due to illicit drug use across BC. Fentanyl was detected in 61% of them. 128 of the deaths occurred in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, including 110 in Vancouver, 6 in Powell River and 4 in North Vancouver.
Overdoses in VCH urban areas
From January 1 to October 29, 2016 there were 5,008 illicit or unknown drug overdoses presenting to VCH emergency departments (ED). One quarter of them (1,275) were opioid related. 86% of them went to hospitals in Vancouver. The majority (71%) of them to St. Paul’s Hospital.
The substance isn’t known for almost half (44%) of all presenting overdoses. When the substance was known the most commonly patient-reported substance was heroin (21%).
The majority of overdoses occurred in males (69%) 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.
Of overdose patients to VCH urban EDs 47% live in Vancouver, 4% were from Richmond, 6% 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.
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. 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:
- VCH submitted applications to Health Canada for two proposed supervised injection services in Vancouver (in the Powell Street Getaway and Heatley Integrated Health Centre).
- Submitted a request for proposals for a women's only supervised injection service.
- Developed letter and info sheet for schools, parents and youth.
- VCH has planned to speak at two public information sessions regarding overdoses and fentanyl, one in Richmond and one in North Vancouver.
- Held a media announcement regarding the availability of take-home naloxone sites at UBC.
- Made take-home naloxone available at the Powell River General, Sechelt and Mount St. Joseph’s hospitals. Completed naloxone training of emergency department staff in Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Whistler and Pemberton so that overdose patients may take take-home naloxone kits home with them upon discharge. Currently the kits are available in eight of the 14 urgent care centres and emergency departments to date.
- There are now 65 non-acute sites throughout VCH where take-home naloxone kits are available for the public. An online map is now available showing sites where people can obtain them, and aren’t required to be registered clients of the particular program.
- Partnered with Fraser Health to create a checklist to guide protocols at housing facilities to prevent overdoses.
- Connection Clinic launched services in the Downtown Community Health Care to provide outpatient methadone and suboxone, used to treat patients with opioid dependency or addiction, to reduce and/or prevent their use of illicit drugs.
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 www.vch.ca/overdose.