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Kamloops leads B.C. Interior in overdose deaths

Kamloops and Kelowna are the deadliest cities in the B.C. Interior when it comes to the poisoned illicit drug supply.

So far in 2022, there have been 47 overdose related deaths in Kamloops and 38 in Kelowna, according to data release by the B.C. Coroners Service today, Aug. 16.

Only Vancouver, Surrey, Greater Victoria and Abbotsford recorded more deaths this year. The greatest number of deaths was in Vancouver where 258 lives have been lost.

Between January and April of this year, there have been 15 overdose deaths in Vernon, 11 in Penticton and four in Merritt.

READ MORE: B.C. drug death toll passes 10,000 since declaration of emergency in 2016: coroner

Altogether, it’s been the deadliest first six months of any year in B.C., the release says, as there have been at least 1,095 deaths between January and June.

"The ever-increasing toxicity of the unregulated, illicit drug market is taking a heart-breaking toll on the lives and well-being of members of our communities across the province," chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in the release.

"Deaths due to toxic drugs in the first half of 2022 have surpassed the number of deaths experienced in the same period in 2021, putting our province, once again, on track for a record loss of life."

READ MORE: Devastated Kamloops father of fentanyl overdose victim demanding change

This year there has been an average of six deaths a day in the province and more than three-quarters of the victims were men.

"Tragically, in the seventh year of this public heath emergency, as we are experiencing increasing numbers of deaths in July, our province has now lost more than 10,000 lives to illicit drugs since April 2016," Lapointe said.

"These were men, women and youth from all walks of life. They lived in our neighbourhoods, worked in our workplaces and played on our sports teams. Some lived ordinary lives, while others faced enormous challenges. All of them fell prey to the lethal supply of illicit drugs that is omnipresent."

Lapointe says it is imperative that a safer supply is offered across B.C.

“It's only when we drastically reduce people's reliance on the profit-driven, illicit drug trade, that we will save lives and turn the trajectory of this crisis around."

The number of overdoses has risen exponentially since the public health emergency was declared in 2016.

"Six years ago, nearly 1,000 people in this province died from the illicit drug supply in a single year,” Guy Felicella from the B.C. Centre on Substance Use said in the release.

“Today, the same number of people died in just half the time. The only thing that's really changed is that the unregulated drug supply has gotten worse. It's become more dangerous and more unpredictable. Nothing will change if we don't ensure that people can get the help they need when they need it - whether that's safe supply or treatment and recovery."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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