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October marked grim milestone across B.C. for record loss of life to overdose

Toxic supply claimed another 201 lives in B.C. in October, seven of which were in Chilliwack
Paramedics work to revive someone from an apparent drug overdose in Chilliwack, on June 16, 2017. (Paul Henderson/Chilliwack Progress File)

The grim tally of overdose deaths in Chilliwack so far in 2021, and across B.C., was higher than ever, according to the latest data released by the BC Coroners Service.

Chilliwack saw a year-to-date total of 46 people succumb to drug overdose from a toxic supply by the end of October. That was already an all-time record of lost lives for the community, with two months left to go in the year.

The toxic drug supply in B.C. claimed another 201 lives by October 31, 2021, of which seven were in Chilliwack, for a total of 1,782 in the first 10 months of the year.

B.C.’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe called it a “heart-rending” milestone to have to report so many deaths from the “increasingly toxic and volatile” fentanyl-laced drug supply.

The 1,782 fatalities across B.C. between January and October already represented the highest number of deaths due to drug toxicity ever recorded in a calendar year.

“In the sixth year of this public health emergency, we are experiencing a record loss of life and I know this news will resonate with tremendous sadness amongst the thousands of families who have lost a loved one to this crisis,” Lapointe said.

RELATED: Numbers trending toward terrible overdose total

The 1,782 lives lost in B.C. between January and October already represent the highest number of deaths recorded in the province in a calendar year, the report noted. The Chilliwack total of 46 is also already higher than in all of 2020, which saw 37 OD deaths for Chilliwack. By the end of June 2021 in Chilliwack there were 30 OD deaths, and by the end of September there were 39.

“This is a health crisis,” Lapointe said. “I cannot stress enough how urgent this emergency has become. A comprehensive plan to ensure access to safe supply for the thousands of B.C. residents dependent on these substances is essential.

“Shifting from a punishment and stigmatizing regime to a decriminalized, health-focused model is also a critical step to reduce suffering and save lives.”

More than 8,300 people have died as a result of drug toxicity since the public health emergency into substance-related harms was declared in April 2016.

RELATED: OD prevention resource created

RELATED: 2020 numbers on pace for a record year

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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