The number of suspected drug overdose deaths in April measures out to roughly four lives lost daily across B.C.
The latest figures from the B.C. Coroners Service show 136 illicit drug overdose deaths across the province in the month of April — the highest per month so far in 2017. In January, there were 121 deaths, in February 109 and in March, 122.
The highest month on record is December 2016, when 144 people died.
Of the 488 people who died so far this year, 84 were women and 404 were men, according to the coroner.
In Kelowna specifically, 32 lives have been lost in 2017, while in Kamloops the death toll is 13. Figures are not available for Penticton or Vernon because the numbers are comparatively lower there. The coroner’s service only reports on the top communities.
Within the Okanagan, there have been 50 deaths so far in 2017 attributed to illicit drug overdoses. That leaves the Okanagan in second place when it comes to the overdose death rate across the province. Vancouver leads with 63.6 deaths per 100,000 people, while the Okanagan had 40.4 deaths per 100,000 people so far in 2017.
In a news release, chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said it's concerning that many people are still using illicit drugs in private residences where help is not readily available.
"I strongly urge those using illicit drugs to do so only at a safe consumption site or drug overdose prevention site, if one is accessible. If one of these sites is not accessible, please use only a small amount of the drug initially and only in the presence of someone willing and able to administer naloxone and call 911 if required. The risks associated with all illicit drugs in the province are extreme, and access to emergency medical assistance is essential to prevent fatal consequences," Lapointe said.
The number of deaths involving fentanyl has not yet been released for March and April. From January to February 2017, the powerful opioid was detected in just over 61 per cent of deaths.
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