Pubdate: Fri, 08 Sep 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Author: Sarah Petrescu
Page: A5


* Drug deaths on Vancouver Island in July: 14

* Total drug deaths in B.C. so far this year: 876

At least 14 people died from illicit drug overdoses on Vancouver
Island in July, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.

This is a decrease from June, in which 23 people died, but still
places the Island and Victoria among the top regions for overdose
deaths. From January to July, 138 people on the Island died.

Lisa Lapointe, the province's chief coroner, said the numbers are
further evidence that the overdose crisis cannot be easily solved.

"We are starting to understand this is a long-term problem," Lapointe
said. "This is a much broader issue than fentanyl alone. What this
[crisis] has showed us is that there are many, many people turning to
drugs. The big question is why?"

Lapointe said her office has hired several coroners to work on its
overdose investigation team. The extraordinary number of deaths has
led to a backlog of coroners reports as aggregate reports are also put
together in an effort to discover any trends or indicators among the
deaths, she said.

Thursday's report revealed the powerful opioid fentanyl was present in
more than four out of five overdose deaths between January and July of
this year. Fentanyl was found in four per cent of overdose deaths in
2012 and 67 per cent in 2016.

Lapointe said the introduction of fentanyl into the stream of street
drugs has made them exponentially more dangerous.

She is hesitant, however, to refer to deaths involving
fentanyl-tainted drugs as poisonings.

"We use the term overdose because it's well understood. It doesn't
mean that someone took too much of something; the substance they used
overwhelmed their bodies," she said.

There were 91 overdose deaths in B.C. in July, down from a high of 147
in April.

Lapointe said there was a similar trend last summer. "Then we got to
November and December and it was absolutely disastrous," she said.

With 876 known overdose deaths in the first seven months of this year,
the province is likely to soon surpass the 2016 death toll of 978.

"The numbers continue to be tragically and unacceptably high," said
B.C. Addictions Minister Judy Darcy, who has spent the past six weeks
touring front-line service providers around the province.

"I see them and think of the people I've met living with addictions,
the families and people working on the front lines. I see their faces."

Darcy said the greatest request for help from the province has been
more accessible treatment and affordable housing.

"Our goal is: Ask for help once, get help fast," she said. "Right now
that is not happening. There is a lack of treatment and housing. How
do you recovery without those?"

She said some of her ministry's plans will be revealed in today's
throne speech and Monday's budget.

Her major task is to develop a better system to delivery support for
people with addictions and mental-health issues. She plans to involve
as many levels and areas of government, as well as business and
community groups as she can to build this.

"They say it takes a village to raise a child," Darcy said. "Well, it
will take a whole province to find a solution for this crisis."

Hours after the latest stats on overdoses were released, Prime
Minister Justin Trudeau closed the door on decriminalizing illicit
drugs to combat the national crisis.

Trudeau said decriminalization is not the approach his government will
take to deal with the problem.

"We are making headway on this and indeed the crisis continues and
indeed spreads across the country, but we are not looking at
legalizing any other drugs than marijuana for the time being," Trudeau
told a news conference at the end of a federal Liberal caucus meeting
in Kelowna on Thursday.

Darcy said criminalizing people for having limited amounts of drugs
for their own use instead of providing treatment puts them at risk of

"I think we need to have this conversation in this country," she said.
"Sometimes governments need to be pushed."

- - With files from The Canadian Press
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MAP posted-by: Matt