Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall says the increase in heroin and related overdose deaths requires rapid reporting of cases.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall says the increase in heroin and related overdose deaths requires rapid reporting of cases.

B.C. declares fentanyl drug overdose emergency

Overdoses involving fentanyl now up to a third of cases, as synthetic drug mixed with heroin, cocaine and marijuana

The B.C. government has declared its first-ever public health emergency to deal with the sharply rising cases of opioid drug overdoses across the province.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall said the measure will allow for rapid collection of data from health authorities and the B.C. Coroners’ Service, so overdose treatment kits can be deployed to regions where there are new clusters of outbreaks.

Overdoses have been mainly clustered in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, but cases have increased in the Okanagan and Vancouver Island as well. Kendall said there is no area of the province unaffected, and that is why he is using the authority to declare an emergency for the first time in B.C. history.

There has been a steady increase in overdoses of drugs containing fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid made in Chinese drug labs and smuggled to Canada. It has been found mixed with heroin, cocaine and even marijuana sold on the streets in B.C.

There were 474 apparent illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C. in 2015, a 30 per cent increase over 2014.

Health Minister Terry Lake said kits containing an overdose treatment called naloxone have been made available to paramedics, firefighters and police, but the alarming rise in cases means more action is needed.

“We have to do what’s needed to prevent overdoses and deaths, and what’s needed is real-time information,” Lake said. “Medical health officers need immediate access to what’s happening and where so they can deploy the necessary strategies to prevent these tragedies.”

• In Fraser Health region, the BC Coroners Service recorded 29 fentanyl-related deaths in 2014, 49 in 2015 and 19 in the first three months of 2016.

• In the Metro Health region, there were 26 fentanyl-related deaths in 2014, 47 in 2015 and 18 in the first three months of 2016.

• In the Island health region, there were 17 fentanyl-related deaths in 2014, 22 in 2015 and nine in the first three months of 2016.

• In the Interior health region, there were nine fentanyl-related deaths in 2014, 21 in 2015 and 15 in the first three months of 2016.

• In the Northern health region, there were 10 fentanyl-related deaths in 2014, 14 in 2015 and three in the first three months of 2016.

Just Posted

The river behind the ball field. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Pulled by the flow: river stirs up childhood memories

Gazette editor makes trek through Port Hardy wilderness to swim in the river

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Alert Bay council has decided to cancel Canada Day celebrations. (Alertbay.ca photo)
Alert Bay council cancels Canada Day celebrations

The decision was made in wake of the mass graves being found at former residential schools

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read