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Nearly 200 toxic drug deaths in first month of 2024, 39 on Island, 51 in Vancouver Coastal

The B.C. Coroners Service says January saw 198 people killed because of toxic drugs in B.C.

The province says this means around 6.4 lives were lost per day last month, most were between the ages of 30 and 59 years old and three-quarters were male. They add drug toxicity is the leading cause of death in the province for people between the ages of 10 and 59.

Compared to January 2023, it is a 14 per cent decrease and a 10 per cent decrease from December. Nanaimo is one of the townships seeing the highest number of unregulated deaths.

One of the highest death rates was also recorded as Island Health saw a death rate of 50 per 100,000. The provincial average was 42 per 100,000.

The report says Vancouver Island saw 39 deaths in January, 11 of those were on the North Island and 19 were on the Central Island. Vancouver Coastal Health saw 51 deaths.

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Mental Health and Addictions minister Jennifer Whiteside says her “deepest sympathies go out to everyone grieving.”

“Each person lost had their own story, their own hopes and dreams and a circle of loved ones,” said Whiteside. “They were neighbours, parents, siblings and friends, and their passing creates ripples of grief throughout our communities.”

Whiteside adds Budget 2024 commits $117 million for mental-health and substance-use services.

“These ongoing initiatives to protect people from the risks of illicit drugs include supervised consumption sites, drug-checking services and prescribed alternatives to the unpredictable toxic-drug supply, and access to life-saving naloxone,” added Whiteside.

Since the toxic drug crisis began in April 2016, over 14,000 British Columbians have been lost to unregulated drugs.

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