More than 200 people died from drug overdoses in Surrey last year.
According to statistics released by the B.C. Coroner Service on Thursday (Feb. 7), 210 people died in Surrey due to illicit drug overdose deaths in 2018. Throughout the province, 1,489 people died from a drug overdose.
That’s roughly more than one person dying every two days in the city.
Surrey was surpassed only by Vancouver which had 382 overdose deaths in 2018.
During an announcement on the expansion of Roshni Clinic, aimed at supporting people in the South Asian community who are struggling with substance abuse, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy said a “horrifically high” number of people died from overdoses in 2018.
“Earlier today, the B.C. Coroner’s office announced that 1,489 people died last year as a result of an unintentional overdose because of poisoned street drugs; 1,489 people, let that number sink in for a minute. Five hundred of those people died here in Fraser Health, 210 died in Surrey,” Darcy said.
“We can never lose sight of the fact that these numbers represent real people and real families who are devastated by their loss; families here in Surrey and across British Columbia and my heart breaks for the families who have experienced that loss and continue to as a direct result of this relentless poisoned drug crisis.”
Speaking to reporters at the B.C. legislature in Victoria, the province’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe called the illicit drug supply on the streets unpredictable and unmanageable.
“The almost 1,500 deaths in B.C. in 2018 due to illicit drug overdoses far outweigh the numbers of people dying from motor vehicle incidents, homicides and suicides combined,” she said.
“Innovative and evidence-based approaches are necessary if we want to effect meaningful change and stop the dying. We need to be prepared to do things differently to save lives.”
According to data compiled through toxicology reports, fentanyl was detected in 85 per cent of all deaths last year, up from 82 per cent in 2017.
Nearly five times as many men died compared to women.
Also for a second year, not a single death happened at an overdose prevention site or safe consumption site.
Darcy said the provincial government has been “escalating response to this overdose crisis every month, every week, every single day,” such as scaling up naloxone distribution across B.C. and the number of overdose prevention and safe consumption sites have “nearly doubled.”
“To date, we’ve had over one million visits to these overdose prevention sites and safe consumption sites across B.C. Thousands of overdoses have been reversed and there has not been a single death.”
Darcy also said the B.C. Centre for Disease Control estimated that approximately 4,800 more people would have died from overdoses from the beginning of the crisis “if it had not been because of these life-saving efforts.”
In 2017, 178 people died in Surrey because of illicit drug overdoses.
– With files from Ashley Wadhwani, Tom Fletcher