BC death panel calls for more treatment services to prevent fatal overdoses


So far this year, 228 people have died from an illicit overdose.

The report comes as numbers from the Coroners Service for February 2018 showed a decline in the number of suspected overdose deaths.

A Death Review Panel is recommending the provincial government to regulate and oversee treatment and recovery programs and facilities as part of the fight against the overdose crisis.

The panel recommended that B.C. Corrections make sure that people released from jails have naloxone kits and know how to access drug-checking and addiction services in the community.

"Overdoses aren't climbing anymore", said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe.

The Coroners Service has not released any statistics showing whether or not any of January or February's fatal illicit drug overdose deaths had fentanyl detected, as those statistics are released quarterly.

Last year, between the months of January 1st to July 31st, Northern BC saw 31 deaths related to opioid use.

However, overdose numbers are no longer spiking and have begun to trend lower the past few months. That is nearly four deaths a day.

The Death Review Panel, chaired by Michael Egilson, released its report on Thursday in Victoria.

The recommendations are from a 19-month review period when overdose deaths skyrocketed, claiming 1,854 lives.

The first is to bring in new regulations to ensure that treatment and recovery programs provide evidence-based care and that the outcomes are closely monitored and evaluated.

Indigenous people were also overrepresented (10 per cent) compared to their total population (3.4 per cent) within the province.

"While it's a relief that we're not continuing to see the significant increases that we saw through much of previous year in terms of accidental overdose deaths, we are still seeing a tragic number of deaths every month", Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said. The rates of overdose deaths are highest in Vancouver Okanagan, Fraser East, Central Vancouver island and North Vancouver Island Health Authority Services delivery areas.

She cited a recent report from Island Health showing that its harm-reduction sites reversed 820 overdoses since December 2016. The number of visits have steadily increased at the nine community sites across the region, including Victoria, Nanaimo, Courtenay, Campbell River and Port Alberni.

"Overdose prevention services are saving lives", said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health's chief medical health officer, in a statement.

Overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites are places where people can use drugs under the direct supervision of trained staff.



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