Overdose statistics – February 2016

Fatal overdoses

According to the BC Coroners Service, in January 2017 there were 116 overdose (OD) deaths due to illicit drug use across BC. 50 of the deaths occurred in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 45 of them were in Vancouver.

Overdoses in VCH & PHC urban areas

From January 1 to February 18, 2017 there were 1,008 illicit or unknown drug overdoses at VCH and PHC emergency departments (ED). Opioids accounted for 32% of the visits with heroin being the most commonly reported substance. 38% of the overdose visits were due to an unknown substance.

86% of the overdoses were seen at Vancouver EDs. The majority (72%) of them at St. Paul’s Hospital.

The majority of overdoses occurred in males (70%) and those aged 19 to 39 years (59%).

Of overdose patients to VCH and PHC urban EDs, 47% live in Vancouver, 4% were from Richmond, 5% were from Coastal Urban, and 2% were from Coastal Rural. The majority of Vancouver residents were from City Centre and the Downtown Eastside.

Mobile Medical Unit

Between December 13, 2016 and February 19, 2017 1548 patients visited the Medical Mobile Unit in Vancouver. Among those 27% visited as a result of an illicit drug overdose. The majority of patients were male (74%) and the median patient age was 38 years (range: 15-77 years).

Overdose Prevention Sites

In December, five Overdose Prevention Sites opened in Vancouver. Between December 8, 2016 and February 19, 2017, there were over 22,000 visits to the five sites. In that same time period there were 202 overdose reversals reported.

Overdoses in VCH rural areas

In VCH rural hospitals (Bella Coola General Hospital, RW Large Memorial Hospital, Sechelt Hospital, and Powell River General Hospital) OD reporting began in June 2016. Since then there have been 48 ODs reported, of which 50% were opioid related. The majority of ODs (67%) were seen at Sechelt Hospital.

What’s happening

Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care are extremely concerned about the high number of overdoses and overdose deaths in our region and throughout the province and continue to take steps to respond.

VCH & PHC and its partners are taking a number of steps to reduce opioid/fentanyl-related overdoses, including new actions this month:

  • Held a media event to open the new DTES Connections on-demand addictions treatment clinic.
  • Grief counselling support groups are now being held weekly at Pender Health Centre and the DTES Neighbourhood House.
  • Supplied VIDUS and West End Mental Health Team with take-home naloxone kits to distribute to clients.
  • Trained various groups on overdose prevention and administering naloxone, including MCFD social workers and foster parents, Musqueam Nation staff, and several shelters.
  • The BC Government announced $5 million to support the ongoing work of the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response. And the Government of Canada is allocating $65 million over five years to support the federal response to the opioid crisis, as well as $10 million in urgent support specifically for BC to help address the overwhelming toll the crisis is taking in this province.
  • The BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) received additional funding from the Government of B.C. to support the centre’s work - education and training, research and evaluation, and clinical care guidance related to problematic substance use. The centre has established a network of clinicians, educators and researchers from across the province aimed at strengthening the provincial system of care for people struggling with problematic substance use.
  • Facility overdose response boxes, provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control, to a total of 88 sites in the VCH region.
  • Developed a Question and Answer document on preventing overdose deaths on Licensed Residential Care Facilities

We are also finalizing several other strategies; details will be released in the coming weeks and months. 

For a complete list of actions to date and info about overdose prevention such as how to use naloxone and where free take-home kits are available visit www.vch.ca/overdose.