BC Centre for Disease Control naloxone kit. (Darryl Dick/The Canadian Press)

As B.C. grapples with pandemic, top doctor marks grim anniversary of overdose crisis

Dr. Henry said the stigma associated with addiction, the challenges with getting help remained top of mind

As the province grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C. marked the grim anniversary of another public health emergency that claimed nearly 1,000 lives last year.

B.C. declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency four years ago Tuesday (April 14). Since then, more than 4,700 people have died due to illicit drug overdoses in the province.

“I am acutely aware of the suffering and loss felt by people who use drugs, by their families and by their communities,” Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s top doctor, said.

“Many have lost loved ones.”

Henry said the stigma associated with addiction and the challenges with getting help remained top of mind for her.

“I want you to know that you are not alone,” she said.

“We’re not letting this [COVID-19] crisis overtake the importance of our response to our overdose crisis.”

According to the B.C. Coroner’s Service, illicit drug overdoses killed 981 people in 2019, 1,543 in 2018, 1,495 in 2017, and 991 in 2016.

READ MORE: People needing addictions services feel ‘abandoned’ during pandemic, B.C.’s ex-top doctor says

READ MORE: Illicit drug overdoses killed 981 in B.C. in 2019, down 38%


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