New data from B.C.’s coroner reveals that more than two people have died every week of overdose in Surrey so far this year, which is a marked decrease when compared to the deaths in 2018.
A total of 86 people have died of overdose in Surrey as of the end of August of this year, according to a data released Wednesday by BC Coroners Service.
That’s a 64 per cent decrease when compared to the same point in the year in 2018, when 141 people had died.
This year, Surrey continues to be second in its death toll only to Vancouver, which has seen 182 deaths so far in 2019 compared to Surrey’s 86.
While overdose deaths have declined significantly in the past year, the number of overdose calls Surrey Fire Service has responded to remains consistent.
“We’re seeing an average of four overdose calls a day that we go to,” said Surrey Fire Chief Larry Thomas. “That’s been consistent since B.C. ambulance changed their notification protocols back in June of 2018.”
That change, he explained, means fire is only called if ambulance is unable to attend within a 10-minute window. Before, firefighters were called to all overdoses.
“Wenoticed our call volume drop when they implemented that change. It’s been holding steady since then,” he said.
So far this year, Thomas said Surrey firefighters have been called to 1,160 overdoses.
“But the good news is the deaths are down,” said Thomas. “There’s been a considerable drop.”
In 2018, a total of 214 people died of overdose in Surrey in all, compared to 181 in 2017, 117 in 2016, 76 in 2015, 44 in 2014 and 36 in 2013.
Overdose deaths are continuing to decrease at promising rates province-wide as well, with a 33 per cent drop in drug-related fatalities in the first eight months of 2019 compared to last year (from 1,037 to 690).
Seventy-nine deaths in B.C. were drug related in August, marking a steady decline month-over-month since January.
Despite the reprieve in the ongoing overdose crisis, street-level fentanyl remains a prominent cause of overdose deaths and has been detected in 85 per cent of all toxicity reports.
Illicit carfentanil, a drug 100 times more powerful than fentanyl and used to sedate large animals, has been detected in 119 fatal overdoses, a 240 per cent increase from the 35 deaths last year.
In 2019 so far, 71 per cent of those dying were aged 30 to 59 and individuals aged 19-59 have accounted for 89 per cent of illicit drug toxicity deaths. Males accounted for 77 per cent of all suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths over the same period.
So far this year 86 per cent of illicit drug toxicity deaths occurred inside (56 per cent in private residences and 31 per cent in other residences including social and supportive housing, SROs, shelters, and hotels) and roughly 12 per cent occurred outside in vehicles, sidewalks, streets, parks, etc.
No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.
Earlier this year, Statistics Canada released the findings of a study that analyzed drug death in Surrey and B.C.
Stats Cans’ report concluded that the majority of people who die of overdose are male and had no police contact in the two years preceding their death.
The study, released on May 16, analyzed deaths between 2011 and 2016 – 332 in Surrey and 2,362 across the province.
In 2018, a total of 1,541 died of illicit drug overdose in B.C., compared to 1,495 in 2017, 992 in 2016, 529 in 2015 and 368 in 2014.