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HomeNewsNorthern Health recorded 21 drug-related deaths in January

Northern Health recorded 21 drug-related deaths in January

BC’s illicit drug crisis continues to have a firm grip on the north as we turn the page to 2024.

According to the BC Coroner’s Service, our health authority recorded 21 suspected drug-related deaths – 4 of those were recorded in the northwest.

In total, there were 198 suspected unregulated drug deaths in January across BC – that equates to just over six lives lost per day on average.

While still staggeringly high, that provincial mark does represent a 14% decrease from the number of deaths in January 2023 (229) and a 10% dip from December 2023 (221).

Fraser Health recorded the most fatalities in January with 61.

Northern Health’s Drug Deaths per 100,000 people is 80.5 – nearly double the provincial average of 42.1.

The Coroners service said 70% of those who died were between 30 and 59, over three quarters were men.

Fentanyl was detected in 76% of recorded drug deaths in January.

2023 saw 2539 suspected drug deaths across BC, the deadliest year ever recorded.

You can find more information here.

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Jennifer Whiteside, released the following statement on the report:

“As the BC Coroners Service report for January casts a spotlight on the tragic loss of 198 individuals to toxic drugs, my deepest sympathies go out to everyone grieving.

“Each person lost had their own story, their own hopes and dreams, and a circle of loved ones. They were neighbours, parents, siblings and friends, and their passing creates ripples of grief throughout our communities.

“Every province is struggling with drug-poisoning deaths and the ongoing impacts of this crisis, including Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as the eastern United States. I understand the pain and the urgency of this crisis. It touches every corner of our province, affecting people from all walks of life. Our government is dedicated to building a system of care that offers support when and where it is needed most. We will continue our efforts to bolster mental-health and addiction services, from early intervention and prevention to treatment and supportive recovery.

“We continue to take important steps toward these goals. Budget 2024 commits $117 million for mental-health and substance-use services, building on the momentum of last year’s historic funding of $1 billion over three years. Budget 2024 also includes additional funding in the capital plan to expand the Red Fish Healing Centre model of care for people with complex mental-health and addiction challenges, and the Road to Recovery model that provides seamless access to care across different services.

“As we strengthen and expand the entire continuum of care, we must ensure these services have the resources they require to provide the level of service that people need. Budget 2024 ensures service providers and community partners get the support they require to stay open and accessible in these times of heightened financial pressure.

“These ongoing initiatives to protect people from the risks of illicit drugs includes supervised consumption sites, drug-checking services and prescribed alternatives to the unpredictable toxic-drug supply, and access to life-saving naloxone. These are part of our safety net to keep people alive so that they can be connected to care when they’re ready.

“We’re working urgently to create a system that not only addresses immediate risks but also supports long-term healing and wellness. We will not stop working to turn the tide on this crisis, acknowledging the value of every individual and the need for change. The road to recovery is never straightforward, but our government is committed to walking the path alongside those who need us, every step of the way.”

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