Four years in, opioid crisis continues to take too many lives



​​Coast Salish Territory – First Nations people continue to face a bigger impact from the opioid crisis than the rest of the population of British Columbia, although preliminary data from 2019 shows this gap is beginning to narrow.

The BC Coroners Service reported there were 981 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in BC in 2019. Although this figure represents a 36 per cent decrease overall from 2018, it still means three people a day in the province continue to fall victim to the poisoned supply.

“We know one thing for certain – the impact of this crisis on Indigenous peoples is disproportionately greater than for the rest of the provincial population,” said Dr. Nel Wieman, Senior Medical Officer for Mental Health and Wellness at the FNHA.

The FNHA will release detailed figures on toxic drug mortality rates this spring. These will show that despite a narrowing of the gap, specific populations such as First Nations women living in urban areas continue to make up a disproportionate part of the casualties.

FNHA Response ($8​​ million a year) 

• Intensive case management teams

• Indigenous peer coordinators  

• Naloxone training in all 203 First Nations communities in BC

• Support for First Nations men and women transitioning out of correctional facilities

• Partnering with community organizations in major urban centres to provide front-line supports

• Engaging more than 13,000 people in community-based harm reduction training​

Quick Facts fro​​m Provincial-Level Data

• The number of illicit drug toxicity deaths in 2019 equates to about 2.7 deaths per day for the year

• There was at least one illicit drug toxicity death in 330 of the 365 days in 2019

• Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria and Abbotsford experienced the highest number of illicit drug toxicity deaths in 2019 

• Vancouver Coastal Health Authority had the highest rate of illicit drug toxicity deaths (23 deaths per 100,000 individuals), followed by Northern Health Authority (22.5 deaths per 100,000 individuals) in 2019

• Overall, the rate in BC was 19 deaths per 100,000 individuals in 2019

• By local health area, the rates of illicit drug toxicity deaths were highest in Princeton, Grand Forks, Hope, Keremeos, and Merritt, from 2017 to 2010

Lear​n more

Read the BC Health Minister’s statement on the illicit drug toxicity death report

Media​ contact

First Nations Health Authority: 604-831-4898

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