Illicit drug overdose deaths reach record high in 2016, Northeast B.C. sees climb

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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – December numbers for overdose deaths in B.C. were even higher then previous months and overall for 2016, it was a record.

142 people died in December from illicit drug deaths, an average of 9 every 2 days.

There were 914 deaths in 2016 which was an increase of 80% over the number of deaths that happened in 2015.

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Fentanyl had previously been reported as one of the main drugs found in illicit drug deaths but the Coroners Service announced this afternoon that they won’t have the information for 2016 until March because of the amount of testing they are still conducting.

The data available did show that over half of the drug deaths from 2016 involved people between 30 and 49-years-old. They also confirmed that 4 out of 5 deaths were male.

In Northern B.C., December was the highest month for deaths with 10. In total for 2016, there were 49. Northeast B.C. specifically saw 17 deaths compared to 4 in 2015.

The government also announced this afternoon that they are investing more than $16 million to expand services for those suffering from addictions. This will include additional residential treatment beds, intensive outpatient services and the removal of financial barriers for opioid addiction treatment medication.

The funding will help open 60 new beds including 20 for youth and 40 for adults that need help with addictions. There will also be 50 intensive outpatient treatment spaces.

“We are experiencing one of the most tragic health crises of our time,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “But in this tragedy is a chance for us to turn a new page on how we help people with addictions. It’s crucial that people working to rebuild their lives have a range of affordable, easy-to-access services to support their journey every step of the way.”

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