Paramedics in Maple Ridge continue to stay busy attending to overdose calls, with the city witnessing a significant rise in overdoses.
According to BC Emergency Health Services’ (BC EHS) Shannon Miller, Maple Ridge has consistently seen higher than average overdose response volumes this year.
“Like many communities in B.C., Maple Ridge has seen an increase in overdose calls in the community in 2021. So far in 2021, (first nine months) there have been 652 overdose response calls in Maple Ridge; more than last year with more than three months to go,” she said.
In 2020, there were 492 overdose calls, 21 per cent more than the previous year’s 406 calls.
Pitt Meadows, owing to its smaller population and area, has a much lower number of overdoses, however, that number is also rising.
“Pitt Meadows has much smaller numbers, but like most communities in BC will see a slight increase this year,” said Miller, adding that until the end of September 2021, Pitt Meadows had seen 42 overdose calls, compared to last year’s 40 calls from Jan. to Dec. 2020.
In Maple Ridge, in September alone, paramedics attended to 83 overdose calls. While this was a drop from August’s 110 calls and July’s 125 calls, the year 2021 still is on track to be the year with the highest number of overdose calls for the city.
In fact, July saw a similar rise in overdose calls all over the province, with 184 deaths due to the consumption of toxic illicit drugs, according to the BC Coroners Service. As per their latest report, more than 1,200 people have died in just the first seven months of 2021.
“The deaths of another 184 of our community members in July is a stark reminder of the tragic and unrelenting trajectory of this public health emergency,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “We know that the loss of each of these individuals leaves a devastated circle of family and friends who are grieving the preventable death of a cherished loved one.”
The increase in overdose deaths, is being attributed in part to illicit fentanyl and its analogues, by the BC Coroners’ Service. Post-mortem toxicology results show a continued increase in the number of deaths associated with extreme fentanyl concentrations, with 13 per cent of preliminary toxicological tests noting concentrations greater than 50 micrograms per litre between April 2020 and July 2021.
Since the toxic drug public health emergency was declared, the death rate due to toxic drugs in the province has almost doubled from 20.4 per 100,000 in 2016 to 39.7 per 100,000 in 2021. The number of illicit drug toxicity deaths in July 2021 is equal to about 5.9 deaths per day.
“Clearly, the scale of this public health emergency requires an urgent, co-ordinated and multi-faceted health-system response,” chief coroner Lapointe said.
“Those at risk of dying come from all walks of life and live in every part of our province. If we truly want to save lives, an accessible range of solutions that reflects the breadth and scope of this crisis is urgently needed. This would include drug-checking services, safe consumption sites, meaningful access to life-saving safe supply and the implementation of evidence-based standards of practice for the treatment of problematic substance use. The heartbreak being experienced by another five or six more families in our province each and every day cannot continue.”
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