Since the start of this year, ambulance personnel have responded to 25 overdose calls in Hope alone.
It’s an average of three to four calls per month said Shannon Miller, communications officer with the BC Emergency Health Service. And in June and July, those numbers were up to five calls per month in Hope.
The amount of calls reached a grim record across the province in July, as paramedics responded to over 2,700 calls amid the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic. That’s 87 calls per day, marking July as the month with the highest number of overdose calls ever recorded since the declaration of a provincial public health emergency in 2016.
Paramedics in Hope have responded to over 30 such calls per year since the declaration. In 2016 there were 33 overdose response calls, with 46 calls in 2017, 33 calls in 2018 and 40 calls in 2019. With four months left this year, paramedics have responded to 25 calls thus far.
Remembering those who have died
On Monday, July 31, organizers shone an extra strong light on overdoses and the stigma surrounding those who die as a result of the overdoses. “This year has been harder than most,” tweeted global event organizers on International Overdose Awareness day.
“We have lost so many loved ones. But today we remember those we’ve lost, love the people left behind, and pledge to do all we can to end overdose.”
Marking Aug. 31 is about both preventing deaths by drug overdose, remembering those who have died as well as acknowledging the grief loved ones who have lost someone or had a loved one experience permanent injury as a result.
“International Overdose Awareness Day spreads the message that overdose death is preventable. Thousands of people die each year from drug overdose. They come from all walks of life,” organizers stated. Events were held in Chilliwack and Mission to mark the day.
Hope continues to be the community with the highest number of deaths per 100,000 people from illicit substances in B.C. This rate has risen steadily from 12.3 per 100,000 in 2014 to 2016, to 59.5 in the past two years.
On Aug. 4, the provincial government announced $10.5-million in new funding for 17 new supervised consumption sites and other overdose prevention responses. This funding is being dedicated amidst the high numbers of overdoses and deaths from overdoses, as those who use substances deal with an increasingly toxic drug supply.
For anyone looking for harm reduction supplies including injection and smoking kits, naloxone kits and sharps containers, they can be picked up at the 444 Park St. public health unit. Supplies can also be accessed at the neighbouring Hope and Area Transition Society office, at 400 Park St. Pacific Community Resources also does a weekly delivery of harm reduction supplies to communities between Chilliwack and Boston Bar. The organization can be reached at 604-795-5994 or 604-798-1416.
– With files from Jennifer Feinberg