3 fentanyl-related deaths in Yukon since last month, says coroner

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Heather Jones, Yukon's chief coroner, says the number of overdose-related deaths in Yukon last year was 'more than double' the number from 2019.
Heather Jones, Yukon's chief coroner, says the number of overdose-related deaths in Yukon last year was 'more than double' the number from 2019.

(Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit)

Three people in the Whitehorse area have died from overdoses involving fentanyl in the last month, says Yukon's coroner — and a fourth person who recently died is also believed to have overdosed.

Chief Coroner Heather Jones issued a news release on Friday afternoon saying Yukoners are dying from overdoses "at an alarming rate."

Out of four deaths since mid-January, three are confirmed as involving fentanyl. Officials are waiting for toxicology results from the fourth deceased person, but the "circumstances and autopsy findings suggest that this death is also the result of a drug overdose," the release says.

Jones said the number of overdose-related deaths in Yukon last year was "more than double" the number from 2019. There were 14 fatal overdoses in 2020 and Jones said eight of those were related to fentanyl. Two others were related to other opioids.

Jones said that since 2016, when Yukon reported its first fentanyl-related death, 36 people have died from opioid overdoses in the territory and 28 of them involved fentanyl.

Fentanyl pills seized by Yukon RCMP in 2017. Since Yukon reported its first fentanyl-related death in 2016, 36 people have died from opioid overdoses in the territory and 28 of them involved fentanyl.
Fentanyl pills seized by Yukon RCMP in 2017. Since Yukon reported its first fentanyl-related death in 2016, 36 people have died from opioid overdoses in the territory and 28 of them involved fentanyl.

Fentanyl pills seized by Yukon RCMP in 2017. Since Yukon reported its first fentanyl-related death in 2016, 36 people have died from opioid overdoses in the territory and 28 of them involved fentanyl.

"These deaths and overdoses are occurring in people from all walks of life, and in [all] ages," said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley in a written statement.

"Given the number of overdoses that both Yukon RCMP and Emergency Medical Services have responded to in recent months, we are fortunate the death toll is not higher."

Hanley said there are services in place to help people, but some have been affected by the ongoing pandemic.

"We recognize that there is still much work to be done."