Prince George drug deaths on pace to exceed last year’s record
By Canadian Press
By Canadian Press
May 3, 2021 – Illicit drugs claimed the lives of 16 people in Prince George in the first three months of this year, according to numbers issued by the B.C. Coroners Service.
The count is on pace to exceed the record-setting 58 deaths recorded over 2020. Seven of those deaths occurred in March.
Province-wide, there were 498 deaths by the end of March, surpassing the previous high of 401 deaths seen for the same period in 2017.
“Once again, we are reminded of the incredible toll that the toxic drug emergency is having on communities throughout our province,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a statement. “The illicit drug supply in British Columbia is volatile and unpredictable, and anyone using a substance from this unregulated market is vulnerable to serious injury or death.”
The Opposition B.C. Liberals called for immediate action to quell the crisis.
“More than just supplementing programs to keep people alive, this NDP government needs to take action to help people right now,” mental health and addictions critic Trevor Halford said. “Instead, the NDP is inexplicably spending less on support this year compared to the next three fiscal years.
“Sons, brothers, aunts and so many others across B.C. can’t afford for John Horgan and the NDP to wait any longer. It’s time for this government to ensure they have access to the appropriate care and supports needed today.”
British Columbia’s finance minister has said the government is making the largest investment in mental health and addictions in the province’s history as part of Budget 2021.
Selina Robinson said the budget includes $500 million over three years to expand youth mental health programs, add 195 treatment and recovery beds for substance users and expand programs that respond to the overdose crisis.
“We are taking action to help end the tragedy playing out in communities around British Columbia,” Robinson said. “Our plan meets the unprecedented need with a historic response.”
That includes $330 million for treatment and recovery services for substance users, $152 million of which is dedicated to opioid treatment.
Emergency overdose prevention supports introduced during the pandemic will become permanent, such as the operation of new supervised consumption sites, Assertive Community Treatment teams and additional nursing supports, she said.
In the five years since B.C. declared a public health emergency in the overdose crisis, more than 7,000 people have died, including record numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic.