Overdose stats: Maple Ridge no longer among worst

Local agencies working together, says Carr

Maple Ridge is no longer among the top cities in the province for drug overdose deaths.

According to the B.C. Coroners Service, there were six overdose deaths in Maple Ridge in 2018, as of March 31, which was tied with Coquitlam for the lowest number in B.C.

Vancouver led with 102 so far this year, while Surrey has had 55, and Victoria 34. Interior cities such as Kelowna, Prince George and Kamloops all had double or more such deaths than Maple Ridge.

The lower number is a marked change, as in 2015 only Vancouver and Surrey had more overdose deaths than the 29 in Maple Ridge.

Local agencies have been working together to curb overdose deaths.

“We’re not a big city, so I think out resources like the ICM [intensive case management] team and Salvation Army… they work together really well, and share information, and tag team,” said Susan Carr, who is a member of the Maple Ridge Opioid Working Group.

She has also been an advocate for increased availability of the opioid antidote naloxone, arguing for its distribution to high schools. She is also a candidate for Maple Ridge council.

She said the working group has been together for over two years now, while other cities are just forming ones. It includes representatives from Fraser Health, Ridge Meadows Hospital emergency, B.C. Ambulance Service, mental health and other agencies.

“We were one of the first communities to take advantage of that opportunity, that funding,” she said.

Carr said the group has offered training in how to administer naloxone, held two forums on the dangers of fentanyl, done poster campaigns and otherwise tried to raise awareness.

She said the ICM team, which deals directly with individuals by trying to get them off the streets and eventually into a drug-free lifestyle, are another huge asset for Maple Ridge.

“They’re front line, and they’re out here and making a huge difference.”

While Maple Ridge can look at a margin of success, the overdose epidemic continues.

There were 161 suspected drug overdose deaths in B.C. in March 2018, which was a 24 per cent increase over the number of deaths occurring in March 2017 (130) and a 58 per cent increase over the number of deaths occurring in February 2018 (102).

The number of illicit drug overdose deaths in March 2018 equates to about 5.2 deaths per day for the month.

Fraser Health announced this week that it will reach out directly to people who use substances at home to tell the health authority “what we need to know to save lives and improve our services.”

A new survey posted to www.drugsurvey.org provides people with an opportunity to share how they engage with existing health services in their community.

The online survey is live, asking people who use substances in private residences as well as their families, friends and loved ones to share insights.

The survey is anonymous, ensuring the privacy of anyone taking it, and Fraser Health will use the data collected to help prevent overdose deaths in our region.

Topics in the survey include how a person currently accesses supports and services, barriers to accessing supports and services, and understanding how a person’s needs can be supported once they access treatment.

The survey takes about five minutes to complete and will be available until June 5.

“So many lives have been lost due to this crisis. People are risking their lives every day because they do not want to reveal that they use illegal substances,” said Fraser Health chief medical health officer Dr. Victoria Lee.

“Our hope is that the survey will empower people living with substance use issues to speak up anonymously and share information that could help us understand what we need to do to engage people in our services.”

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