Is the public health emergency of illicit drug deaths taking its toll on coroners and paramedics in BC?

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says that’s a distinct possibility as BC Emergency Health Services reported over 75-hundred overdose calls this summer, the highest ever during a three-month period.

Lapointe told Vista Radio seeing the family of a loved one who has passed away never gets easier.

“The grief of the family is just so sad because they have lost their loved one, their son, daughter, mother, father, or brother and oftentimes they have struggled to find support for their family, they know that they had problematic substance use.”

Lapointe also understands the frustration from both medics and coroners who might feel they are fighting a losing battle.

“I certainly can imagine like the coroners that they do feel a little frustrated and not enough is changing and that they are seeing so many lives lost to what are preventable deaths.”

“It’s very difficult in that the numbers are so, so high for such a long period of time that the coroners see the same scenario many, many times where they are going to a residence and they see a man who has died alone.”

However, for the first time in a while, the public health emergency is being viewed in a different light.

“It’s becoming more real to people and I think when we can say ‘oh it’s other people who are dying’ it’s easier to push it off as not a problem that affects us but when its people we know or loved ones that we know I think we start to humanize who are dying.”

“There are systems that need to change. We’ve had inquests into addiction deaths, juries have made recommendations, and the BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel made recommendations, some of those are not simple to implement.”

1,068 people have lost their lives during the first eight months of 2020, with 80 of those in Northern Health including 29 in Prince George.

Our health region has the highest rate of illicit drug deaths in BC at 40 per 100,000 people.