One year later: B.C.’s first public health emergency continues

Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall reflects on the past year of the deadly overdose crisis

Thursday marks one year since the province declared its first public health emergency, in response to the steadily climbing overdose deaths in B.C.

A total of 914 lives have been claimed from opioid-related deaths since the declaration was made April 14, 2016 by Health Minister Terry Lake and provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall.

At that time, January 2016 was marked as the month where the largest number of overdose deaths had occurred since 2007 – when 76 people died – that number was quickly beaten.

For the past four months more than a hundred people have died each and every month, including a record 142 lives lost in December – close to double that of January.

The most recent statistics show an average of seven people dying every two days across the province.

In a statement Thursday, Kendall acknowledged that the deaths are continuing, despite the heroic efforts of volunteers, family members and first responders, as well as awareness campaigns from health authorities and the use of naloxone kits that have reversed “thousands” of overdoses.

“While the continued toll is discouraging, we must also acknowledge that because of these actions, hundreds of people are alive and hundreds more are now in treatment and recovery who would not be there if not for these interventions,” he said.

 

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