On April 14, 2016, British Columbia's Provincial Health Officer declared a public health emergency following an unprecedented increase in drug poisoning events and deaths due to an unpredictable and highly toxic illicit drug supply.
Since that time, the number of overdoses and deaths due to illicit toxic drug poisoning has continued to rise. Recent data reveals that First Nations people are over-represented, five times more likely to experience an overdose, and three times more likely to experience a fatal overdose than other BC residents. Sadly, this large gap in death rates between First Nations individuals and other BC residents is now wider than it has ever been and further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
To increase awareness of the illicit toxic drug poisoning issue and its impact on BC First Nations, and to provide communities, Nations, public, media, and health care professionals with ready access to updated data, the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) has developed and launched a new Community Situation Report titled “Toxic Drug Poisoning Events and Deaths and FNHA's Response". This report is located in the Overdose and Harm Reduction section of the FNHA website and will be updated monthly.
The report also provides information on the expanding range of programs and initiatives to combat the toxic drug crisis amongst BC First Nations. The FNHA continues to work with First Nation communities, health care partners and service providers to design and offer programs and support services in culturally safe ways to address anti-Indigenous racism and systemic inequities that currently exist in Canada's healthcare system.