Vancouver overdose numbers still high: City of Vancouver

B.C. breaks record for daily overdose ambulance calls

Vancouver city officials say the number of people overdosing and dying after using drugs remains quite high.

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services received 92 overdose calls in the week beginning March 6. Most of the incidents took place on the Downtown Eastside, but in a released statement, the number of cases outside that neighbourhood was called "significant."

Paramedics with the B.C. Ambulance Service responded to 129 overdose calls in Vancouver during the same time — most of which were the same incidents to which firefighters were called.

The Vancouver Police Department — which doesn't typically respond to overdose calls  — reported 12 suspected overdose deaths during the same week. On just one day (March 12), the VPD reported four suspected overdose deaths. 

Toxicology testing is not complete in these cases, and the B.C. Coroners Service has not confirmed the cause of death or final numbers. However, the death rate reported by VDP is among the highest in the city this year.

The number of overdose calls reported by Vancouver firefighters was lower than the week before but still above the historical average.

"The number of families impacted by drug overdose deaths across Vancouver in the fentanyl crisis is truly heartbreaking," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson in a prepared statement. 

"The B.C. government recently received $10 million from the federal minister of health to fight the overdose crisis," Robertson continued.

"Those funds should be used to broaden access to clean prescription drugs and substitution therapy and expand treatment-on-demand services to save lives and help people recover from substance use."

According the the B.C. Coroners Service, 922 people were killed by illicit drug overdoses in the province in 2016. Nearly 25 per cent of those deaths occurred in Vancouver.