Maple Ridge is close to hitting a record number of deaths this year due to illicit toxic drugs.
A report by the BC Coroners Service released Thursday, Dec. 9, noted that from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31 this year there have so far been 35 deaths due to toxic drugs in Maple Ridge.
This compared to last year’s total of 39 deaths for the entire year.
Numbers have been steadily increasing since 2011, not only in Maple Ridge, but in cities across the province.
A decade ago Maple Ridge had only four deaths due to illicit drug toxicity for the entire year in 2011.
The death rate per 100,000 people from January until August this year in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows was 42.9 – higher than Burnaby at 30.6, Langley at 24.6, and the Tri-Cities at 22.2.
Mo Korchinski, with Alouette Addictions Services, was devastated by the news – but not surprised.
“It’s horrible,” she said. “And that’s only the deaths, we’re not even looking at the overdoses. You know, the ones that have been Narcanned. It must be a ridiculous amount.”
Korchinski is chair of the board at the Maple Ridge organization that provides counselling and educational programs for people affected by addiction – whether that be a personal drug use or a family member affected by another’s substance use.
Part of the work undertaken at Alouette Addictions is assessment and referral to detox centres and residential treatment programs.
However, Korchinski said, there is not enough help out there.
“Right now if I have a client who wants to go to treatment, there’s no beds available. There’s no detox, there’s no beds,” she noted.
And, she added, there are few options for her clients. If a bed becomes available they have to take it – no matter where it is located, without seeing the facility, or even knowing what the facility is about. Korchinski compared it to booking a trip to Mexico with only one room available at a hotel.
“But you don’t get to see what it looks like, you don’t have a clue what it’s like,” she said.
People who want help, however, have to go to a treatment centre for 60 days for what will be the biggest life change they are ever going to do, added Korchinski.
“And you have no idea. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not like it – you’re stuck there. We don’t even give people options, it doesn’t matter if it’s faith based or whatever it is,” she remarked, adding that more resources are needed for people who want treatment. More beds are needed right across the province, she said.
In October alone, B.C. hit a record of 201 deaths in a single month.
Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Additions, called the number “heartbreaking”.
“It is heartbreaking that we continue to lose more lives to toxic drugs, and October was particularly tragic with over 200 deaths, the most ever recorded in a month,” said the minister. “No words can replace a loved one lost. I feel British Columbia’s grief and frustration. Almost every person in the province knows someone whose life has been touched by the poisoned drug crisis. I am so sorry for each loss and send strength to everyone who is mourning someone they love.”
Malcolmson reported that in 2012 illicit fentanyl was present in five per cent of the illicit drug toxicity deaths and this year it has been detected in 85 per cent.
“This increase is staggering,” she said.
The minister is urging everyone to stay safe as the holiday season fast approaches – and to look out for one another.
She is appealing to anyone planning to use:
• not to use alone
• to download the Lifeguard app
• to get their drugs checked
• to use only a small amount and proceed slowly
• to have a Naloxone kit close by
• and to find an overdose prevention or safe consumption site nearby.
And to reach out for help if needed:
* Call 310-6789 for crisis emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health.
* Call 1-800-784-2433 if you are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including thoughts of suicide.
* Call 1-800-588-8717 for culturally aware crisis support for Indigenous Peoples in B.C.
* Call 1-800-663-1441 for alcohol and drug information and referral.
“As we face the most devastating year on record, we continue to do everything we can to turn this drug poisoning crisis around,” said Malcolmson, including expanding substance-use treatment and recovery services in the health-care system and leading the country on decriminalization and prescribed safer supply.
They are also planning to expand the prescribed safer supply program, to help separate more people from the toxic illicit drug supply.
“These measures will save lives. And we are committed to do much more until no person is left behind,” remarked Minister Malcolmson.
For more ways to stay safer go to: stopoverdose.gov.bc.ca.
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