A woman holds up a sign bearing a photograph of Morgan Goodridge during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver on Saturday, August 15, 2020. The B.C. Coroners Service reported a record number of 175 overdose deaths related to illicit drugs in June. Approximately 5,000 people have died due to illicit-drug overdoses since a public health emergency was declared in 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Three suspected overdose deaths in East Kootenay in 2021: B.C. Coroners Service

It was the deadliest month of February on provincial record, with 155 suspected overdose deaths in B.C.

Two deaths attributed to illicit drug toxicity in the East Kootenay last month were reported by the B.C. Coroners Service on Wednesday, as the province disclosed a total of 155 suspected deaths in February.

According to a report, 155 suspected deaths is the largest number ever recorded in the month of February and a 107 per cent increase from the same month last year.

“The number of deaths due to toxic illicit drugs in February highlights the ongoing critical risk to public health and safety from the illicit drug market,” said Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s chief coroner, in a press release. “I extend my sincere sympathy to everyone who has lost a beloved family member or friend to substance use. The continued tragic and unprecedented rate of death in B.C. highlights the urgent need for a multi-faceted, evidence-based and accessible system of care for those experiencing problematic substance use.”

The two suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in the East Kootenay is in addition to one that was also reported in January, which brings the regional total to three for 2021. The report did not specify where those suspected deaths occurred within the East Kootenay.

Provincially, the February total is a slight decrease from January’s number, reported at 174. It is the 11th straight month of triple-digit numbers for suspected overdose deaths.

According to the report, preliminary data indicates fentanyl was detected in 85 per cent of the suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in 2021, either alone or in combination with other substances. Additionally, carfentanil was detected in 31 suspected deaths so far this year.

However, in both cases, that data may change as further toxicology reports are received, says the BC Coroners Service.

“This data emphasizes the alarming increase in the toxicity of the illicit drug supply throughout B.C.,” Lapointe said. “Across the province, the risk of serious harm or death is very real for anyone using a substance purchased from the illicit market. Decisive action is urgently needed to ensure an accessible, regulated safe supply and to provide people with the supervised consumption, treatment and recovery services they need.”

Cranbrook Townsman