B.C. on pace for deadliest year in drug crisis as July brings another 198 deaths

VANCOUVER — British Columbia is on pace for the deadliest year in its unregulated toxic-drug crisis, with the BC Coroners Service saying another 198 deaths were reported in July.

It says there have been at least 1,455 deaths in the first seven months of 2023, the most ever recorded.

Fifty-six per cent of deaths this year have occurred in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health authorities, but the coroners service says Northern Health continues to have the highest per-capita toxic-drug death rate at 59.8 per 100,000 residents.

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says in a statement that the unregistered illicit drug market is "highly unpredictable," and the lack of access to stable, lower-risk alternatives continues to put lives at risk.

Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside says in a statement the new numbers are "a stark reminder" of the ongoing drug crisis, and the province is continuing to expand access to treatment options and counselling.

Opposition BC United MLA Elenore Sturko says in a post on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that "condolences alone aren't enough" and she is calling for a "recovery-oriented" care system.

She says a third of the province's fatal overdoses in July happened inside social housing, shelters and hotels.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 29, 2023.

The Canadian Press