Fentanyl, seen here, continues to be found in drug overdose deaths in B.C. (Special to The News)

Fentanyl, seen here, continues to be found in drug overdose deaths in B.C. (Special to The News)

Maple Ridge on pace to match worst year for overdose deaths

Coroner’s report shows worst April yet for drug toxicity deaths

There have been 13 deaths from drug toxicity in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows so far in 2021.

Across B.C. in the month of April there were 176 deaths due to toxic illicit drugs, according to a preliminary report released by the BC Coroners Service. That brings the total number of deaths recorded in 2021 to 680.

“Once again, we’re reminded that the scale of this public health emergency is truly unprecedented,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.

The 176 lives lost are a record for the month of April and represent a 43 per cent increase over the number of deaths reported in April 2020. This is the 14th consecutive month in which more than 100 British Columbians have died from suspected illicit drug toxicity.

In the Maple Ridge area, the 13 deaths puts the city on pace to meet or exceed the 37 people who died from illicit drugs in 2020, which was the worst year ever.

The toxicity of the drug supply in B.C. has continued to increase, said the Coroners Service. Fentanyl has been detected in 86 per cent of deaths this year, while carfentanil, a more potent analogue of fentanyl, has been found in 62 samples in 2021 – almost as many as were detected in all of 2020 (65).

“These latest numbers emphasize the toxicity of the illicit drug supply in B.C.,” Lapointe said.

Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said the Coroners report for April shows the situation is not getting any better.

“When the overdose crisis collided with the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the progress we were making was lost. Now, as we see our province turning the corner on COVID-19, it hurts even more to see overdose fatalities continue to mount,” she said.

READ ALSO: With 1,716 deaths, 2020 deadliest year of overdose crisis in B.C. history

The Liberal Party accuses the government of not being decisive.

“On May 14, 2021, the Official Opposition wrote to the Premier asking him to activate the Select Standing Committee on Health to work on immediate actions to prevent further tragedy. The Premier didn’t even respond to the letter, refusing to engage in this non-partisan effort,” said Trevor Halford, BC Liberal Critic for Mental Health and Addictions. “Instead, he continues to reuse the same talking points month after month while more families lose loved ones. We don’t need more words – we need more action.”

READ ALSO: Thousands of doses of suspected fentanyl, meth in Ridge Meadows RCMP bust

Halford said it is critical to ensure culturally appropriate services are in place, as First Nations people continue to be disproportionately represented in overdose numbers.

“It’s clear urgent action needs to be taken in our province to help save lives. More than just supplementing programs, this NDP government needs to ensure B.C. has a comprehensive mental health and addictions system,” said Halford. “British Columbians struggling with addiction need access to affordable treatment options, which are sorely lacking.”

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