An anniversary without celebration

In April of 2016, the province declared a public health emergency in response to significant increases in opioid-related deaths. In 2016, an astonishing 993 people died in BC because of poisoned drugs. In 2021, this number skyrocketed to 2,232. 

“We’re making progress, but every time the Coroners Service reports the drug poisoning fatalities it’s clear that we have so much work to do,” says Dr. Sandra Allison, Medical Health Officer.

The drug poisoning crisis continues to devastate communities and innovative actions are underway to build a continuum of care that prevent overdose, heal individuals and families, and recover from a crisis that has claimed too many lives.

“Many people use substances for various reasons,” says Dr. Allison. “Too many people are dying alone because they are embarrassed, stigmatized or afraid of being treated like a criminal. And that has to change.”

There is no single solution to this complex issue. The province of BC leads the way in overdose prevention measures including building a continuum of mental health and addictions care from the ground up.

Dr. Murray Fyfe, interim Chief Medical Health Officer for Island Health, believes that we all play a part in caring for each other and creating community connections.

“The responsibility for tackling this crisis does not rest solely with the health-care system, the government or individuals,” says Dr. Fyfe.

“We need to collectively support families, children and youth to help reduce the impact of adverse childhood experiences and ensure young people grow up supported, connected to their communities, and resilient.” 

Island Health is committed to preventing injury and death caused by drug poisoning and supporting people who are vulnerable to overdose.

Work at Island Health includes:

  • Improve access to overdose prevention services and sites
  • Expand access to prescribed safer supply and opioid agonist therapy (OAT/iOAT/TiOAT)
  • Enhance mobile public health services for remote and vulnerable people
  • Amplify the voices of people with lived and living experience
  • Collaborate with and support community partners 

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