Canada should declare overdose deaths a national health emergency, said British Columbia Health Minister Terry Lake.
Lake made the comment while reeling from the release of the province’s year-end illicit drug overdose statistics by chief coroner Lisa Lapointe on Wednesday.
A record-high 142 people died of overdoses in December, bringing the province’s 2016 total to a staggering and tragic 914 deaths.
Lake says the province has taken unprecedented measures to try to address the crisis, including the opening of 20 overdose prevention sites in December, but the prevalence of fentanyl and now the even more dangerous carfentanil in street drugs has continued to push the death rate up.
The crisis unfolding in B.C. and elsewhere in Canada should also spark debate about how drugs are regulated in the country, Kendall said.
In the meantime, Lapointe is urging people dependent on drugs to access supervised services and not use alone.
All recreational or experimental drugs users are being told avoid using drugs altogether.
Lake said almost 100 overdoses were reversed at provincially-sanctioned overdose prevention sites since they started opening last month.
Had it not been for those sites, and other initiatives in response to the crisis, “many, many more lives would have been lost,” Lake said.