Pubdate: Sun, 02 Jul 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Author: Sarah Petrescu
Page: A4


Seven deaths recorded in Victoria in May, bringing total to at least
41 this year

Seven people died from illicit-drug overdoses in Victoria in May, in a
year that is already on track to surpass 2016 for deaths, according to
statistics from the B.C. Coroners Service.

In the first five months of 2017, at least 41 Victorians died from
overdoses. In all of 2016, the year overdoses were declared a public
health emergency, 68 people died in the city.

British Columbia saw 640 overdose deaths from January to May - with 96
of those on Vancouver Island. Fentanyl was present in 72 per cent of
the deaths up to April (the May data is pending).

"The number of deaths shows that the risks remain extreme," said chief
coroner Lisa Lapointe in a statement. "The drug supply is unsafe, and
casual and occasional users are at high risk of overdose due to their
opioid naivete."

On Thursday, Health Canada issued a public warning about the overdose
risk to anyone attending summer festivals and concerts, advising
people not to use drugs alone, to have medical help nearby and to know
the signs of an overdose.

Lapointe reiterated this message, adding anyone using drugs should be
near "a sober person with access to, and training in, the use of
naloxone," which counteracts the effects of opioids.

"Those who are in the company of someone who has used drugs should
note that heavy snoring and lack of rousability are frequently signs
of the respiratory distress caused by an overdose; 911 should be
called immediately if these symptoms are present," she said.

The majority of those dying are men between the ages of 30 and 60
using drugs at home or indoors. Friday is the day of the week with the
most overdose deaths.

There were 11 overdose deaths across Vancouver Island in May. This is
lowest number since August 2016. The worst month for deaths was
February 2017, in which 24 Islanders overdosed and died.

"While it's good to see that decline, we can only hope it will
continue but still prepare for the worst," said Dr. Richard Stanwick,
chief medical officer for Island Health.

"In spite of all that we're doing, trying to get the message out the
number of deaths speak to the prevalence and pervasiveness of fentanyl
in the entire illicit drug supply."

Stanwick said Island Health is working to bring more harm reduction
services to the Island.

According to the coroners service, there were 43 deaths on the South
Island, 38 on the Central Island and 15 on the North Island in the
first five months of 2017.

The Island' s eight overdose prevention sites have had 26,900 visits
by 970 people, the health authority said. Island Health staff have
responded to 310 overdoses at the sites, but there has not been a
single death.

Katrina Jensen, executive director at AIDS Vancouver Island in
Victoria, said the organization's harm-reduction team has "basically
been run off our feet responding to requests for naloxone training."

In May, AVI trained 600 people to use naloxone kits, Jensen

"They were everyone from grandparents and parents worried about a
family member to other service providers," she said.

"It does seem like awareness is growing about the need to respond,
which is great. But we're strapped. We're flat out."
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MAP posted-by: Matt