The number of people who died from street drug overdoses in Maple Ridge was cut in half in 2019, compared to the year previous.
Maple Ridge was at the bottom of the list of top 15 cities and towns in B.C. for overdose deaths, according to the latest report from the B.C. Coroner’s Service.
In 2018, a total of 29 people died from illicit drug deaths, said the coroner’s report.
In 2019, that number reduced to 13.
The decrease is also shown province-wide with 981 people dying from drug overdoses in 2019 compared to 1,543 in 2018 – a 36-per-cent decrease.
But that’s the same number of deaths as in 2016, when the provincial health emergency was declared, said Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s chief coroner.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the reduction shows that harm-reduction measures are working, and that addiction is an illness. But she added they are seeing more young people with long-lasting effects from overdoses.
“More than 5,000 lives have been lost in B.C. since 2016 as a result of illicit drug toxicity. These deaths have deeply hurt families and communities across our province and represent an immense loss of potential in all walks of life,” said Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s chief coroner.
“The number of illicit drug toxicity deaths in 2019 remains higher than motor vehicle incidents, suicides and homicides combined, and B.C. continues to bear the heaviest toll of the impacts of the unpredictable, profit-driven, illicit drug market.
“Collectively, we continue to urge for greater access to safe supply for those in our community who are experiencing, and struggling to live with, substance use disorder.”
A continuing trend highlighted in the report is that middle-aged men are over-represented with more than 75 per cent of the suspected overdose deaths involving males and 71 per cent involving people aged 30 to 59.
Eighty-seven per cent of deaths continue to occur indoors, with more people dying on the days immediately following the issuance of income assistance payments than all other days in the year.