Overdose deaths in Vancouver surpass last year’s total

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The City of Vancouver says more people have died of a drug overdose so far in 2017 than during all of 2016.

After the Vancouver Police Department reported three deaths during the week of Aug. 7, the city says the total number of overdose deaths in the city is now estimated at 232.

Last year, the B.C. Coroners Service reported 231 fatalities for Vancouver, many involving the opioid painkiller fentanyl.

“The rising number of overdose deaths this year is horrendous and absolutely heartbreaking,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson in a press release.

“We will continue to work with the new provincial government and pour City resources into tackling this crisis. We can’t be complacent and let the number of deaths from this public health crisis be the new normal.”

First responders have handled an average of 135 overdose calls a week this year, he said.

Robertson said the decriminalization of illicit drugs and expansion of injectable treatment options — such as medical-grade heroin — must be explored, echoing a report issued last week by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

According to the B.C. Coroner’s Service, a total of 780 people died of a drug overdose between Jan. 1 and June 30 this year, an 88 per cent increase from the same period in 2016.

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Overdose deaths in Vancouver surpass last year’s total

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