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Overdose calls increased across B.C. in 2020

The overdose crisis rages on across the province.

Amid the pandemic, B.C. paramedics responded to more overdoses in 2020 than ever before.

They spiked in July, when BC Emergency Health Services dispatch staff and paramedics handled the highest number of overdose responses ever recorded in a single month. 

The final tally for 9-1-1 calls from someone suffering a potential overdose was 27,067. That’s up 12 per cent over 2019. 

Here’s a snapshot of some of the community overdose call volumes in communities on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, comparing 2019 to 2020. 

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  • Duncan saw a noticeable rise, from 263 to 414 (63 percent increase).
  • Sechelt’s call volume went from 41 to 87 (47 percent increase).
  • Courtenay saw a spike in calls, from 138 to a five-year high of 206 (67 percent increase).
  • Campbell River’s calls rose from 177 to a five-year high of 249 (71 percent increase).
  • Powell River’s call volume increased from 66 to a five-year high of 106 (62 percent increase). 
  • Port Hardy was one of the few communities that saw a decrease from 35 to 32.

Several other communities in B.C. experienced a dramatic increase in calls. These communities had lower call volumes than metro areas but felt the impact of dramatic increases in overdoses. 

And while every health region across the province saw an increase in overdoses, however there was one anomaly. 

The Vancouver Coastal region saw a slight decrease in calls by four per cent. 

One area within the Vancouver region saw a 14 per cent decrease in calls – the Downtown Eastside (DTES). 

For the last few years the DTES community has averaged more than 5,000 overdose calls a year. In 2020 that number dropped to 4,574, from 5,335; that’s 761 fewer overdose calls than in 2019. 

The Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Valley regions continue to have the highest number of overdose calls as they include 50 per cent of the province’s population. Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria remain the top communities for overdose calls. 

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