Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for Island Health, speaks at a press conference on fentanyl at the Victoria Police Department on Nov. 5, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)

Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for Island Health, speaks at a press conference on fentanyl at the Victoria Police Department on Nov. 5, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)

COLUMN: Island Health solemnly reflects upon the fifth anniversary of opioid crisis

A record 1,724 people in B.C. died in 2020

It is with heavy hearts that we acknowledge the extraordinary loss of life to the illicit toxic drug supply.

A record 1,724 people in B.C. died in 2020 from drug poisoning, 263 of these in the Island Health region. Men are dying at an alarming rate, accounting for 86 per cent of illicit drug toxicity deaths in 2020. Drug poisoning deaths are surging during the pandemic, and First Nations people are disproportionately affected, experiencing deaths 5.6 times the rate of other B.C. residents. The people we lost were sons, daughters, parents, and friends. We remember those who have died as a result of the toxic drug supply and acknowledge the grief felt by their families and friends. We recognize the courage of family members, loved ones, care providers and others who continue to support people who use substances.

Despite significant advances and ground-breaking efforts by so many, there is still more work to be done to address the illicit drug poisoning crisis. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition often rooted from childhood trauma. Negative and inaccurate views about people who use substances can lead people to stay silent and avoid seeking care. Policy makers, health-care leaders, community organizations, local governments, and advocates must continue to ask difficult questions and make vital decisions to reduce drug poisoning deaths in communities across the Island Health region.

We ask you, as members of your community, as local leaders, as neighbours, as family and friends, to create space for respectful dialogue around substance use. People from all walks of life use drugs for many different reasons. We all need connection, compassion and dignity. If you or someone you know needs support for their substance use, there is help. Starting a conversation could save a life. Resources are available at stopoverdose.gov.bc.ca.

– Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health vice president of population health & chief medical health officer, and Island Health’s medical health officers Drs. Sandra Allison, Michael Benusic, Charmaine Enns, Murray Fyfe, Paul Hasselback (retired), Dee Hoyano, and Shannon Waters.

opioid crisis

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New electric buses are coming to school districts. (Submitted photo)
New electric school buses will drive North Island forward

Travel on electric school buses is smoother, quieter, and healthier than traditional diesel buses

North Island Gazette file photo of Port McNeill council.
Port McNeill average priced home to pay $12 more in taxes

Residential property taxes in Port McNeill are going up

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Opening ceremony in remembrance of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Awareness Day hosted by Quatsino First Nation. (Quatsino First Nation Facebook video screenshot)
VIDEO: Quatsino First Nation goes live for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Day

May 5 is when the message behind all the red dresses hanging comes into sharpest focus

North Island Gazette file photo of Port Hardy council.
Port Hardy council to send RCMP officer a letter of congratulations

Mayor Dennis Dugas said Corp. Chris Voller ‘obviously earned it and he did a great job up here’

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Most Read