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25 overdose deaths reported for the month of June in Vancouver

July 14 2017 Overdose calls increased by an alarming 91% since June 2016

"First responders, City, front-line, health, and community service workers, and people with lived experience are committed to saving lives 24/7 from fentanyl drug overdose," says Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Checking blood pressure

Vancouver Police Department (VPD) reported that Vancouver saw a total of 25 suspected overdose deaths during the month of June, a slight drop from the 30 deaths reported by the BC Coroner for May.

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services (VFRS) also reported a staggering 579 overdose calls for the month, an increase of 91% from June 2016, but a 13% decrease from May 2017 which saw 667 overdose calls to VFRS.

First week of July: 126 overdose calls

During the first week of July, VPD reported seven overdose deaths, up from five reported the previous week. VFRS reported a slight drop in overdose calls for the same period, with a total of 126 calls, down from 153 last week, a decrease of 18 per cent.

The City has been calling on the Provincial government to support this crisis with immediate action and urges the new government to make it a top priority.

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"First responders, City, front-line, health, and community service workers, and people with lived experience are committed to saving lives 24/7 from fentanyl drug overdose," says Mayor Gregor Robertson. "All of us impacted by the overdose crisis anxiously await the new BC government - with their commitment to making the crisis a top priority - taking swift action to ramp up the Four Pillars approach and providing immediate access to addictions treatment, clean opioids and other health supports."

Alert warning system introduced

The City is encouraged to see partners working on innovative responses the overdose crisis.

This week, Vancouver Coastal Health introduced an alert warning system . The pilot program aims to bring drug contamination information to drug users faster through an anonymous online and text reporting program.

Drug users can report tainted substances, overdoses, and the neighbourhoods in which the substance was purchased through the Real-time Drug Alert & Response (RADAR) program online  or by text (236)-999-3673.

These efforts are a good first step to address the contaminated illicit drug supply that is killing so many British Columbians. However, access to drug testing technology remains a critical gap. Testing must be widely accessible to give drug users and health professionals accurate, real-time data.

Existing drug policy must be reviewed

Over the long-term the Federal government must review the failures in existing drug policy that have fueled this crisis, and consider moving to a new regulatory approach for illicit substances.

Vancouver is on track to see more than 400 deaths in 2017, and 1,500 deaths BC-wide by the end of the year.

Toxicology reports on the most recent deaths are not yet complete and final overdose death numbers need to be confirmed by the BC Coroners Service.