Tiny New West had more illicit drug overdose deaths than Coquitlam in 2018

New Westminster saw a rise in the number of illicit drug overdose deaths in in 2019.

More work is needed to end the opioid health care crisis in B.C., says a Fraser Health medical health officer.

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At the end of November, 2018, 30 people had died of an overdose in New Westminster compared to 25 people in 2017 and 10 in 2017, and fentanyl was detected in most of the illicit opioid overdose deaths, according to the BC Coroners Service, which published the information this week. According to this graph, New West had 10 more such deaths than the much-larger community of Coquitlam.

Dr. Ingrid Tyler praised public information campaigns and the free distribution of naloxone kits for helping communities battle the crisis.

“We are very encouraged to see some reduction or at least no increase in 2018 compared to 2017 provincially,” she said. “It is important for us to remember that the rates of deaths from illicit drugs or opioids in this case is much higher than three or four years ago. We are not out of the woods.

“The issue is so complex and affects such a wide variety of society and individuals that it’s really important that we have multiple strategies out there so that regardless of where you’re at in your use and whatever kind of risk profile you may have that you will find the information and help that you need.”

She hopes more people will heed the message that Fraser Health is trying to promote about ways to use drugs safely.

“It may be helpful to use the opportunity to repeat those messages, to remind people to have a naloxone kit, reminding people to use with someone or have someone check on you if you’re using, reminding people not to use alcohol with drugs or use multiple drugs, and to know signs of overdose, and call 911 immediately and give breaths every five seconds until help arrives.”

Tyler also pointed out that it is not a crime to help someone and stay at the scene of an overdose because the Good Samaritan Overdose Act provides legal protection for those who seek emergency help.

- with files from Diane Strandberg, Tri-City News


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