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7 lives lost to unregulated drug supply in Langley last month

198 deaths throughout B.C. is a grim start to new year of overdose fatalities
Signs were provided to people attending the awareness walk for International Overdose Awareness Day in Langley on Aug. 31, 2023. (Langley Advance Times files)

Seven people have lost their lives to the unregulated toxic drug supply already this year, in just the month of January.

Across the province, 198 people died in January due to “suspected unregulated drug deaths,” according to the most recent BC Coroners Service report.

This follows after Langley recorded its second highest year of 47 drug poisoning deaths in 2023.

The worst year in Langley’s history of unregulated drug deaths was 58 deaths in 2021.

It brings Langley’s total to 318 people lost to the unregulated drug supply since it was declared a public health emergency in 2016.

READ MORE: 47 people lost to unregulated drug supply crisis in Langley last year

Despite the grim start to 2024, this represents a 14 per cent decrease in the number of deaths compared to January 2023, and a 10 per cent decrease compared to December province-wide, according to the report.

But the high number in one month still equates to approximately 6.4 deaths per day in January in the province.

Of the 198 deaths in B.C., 70 per cent were aged 30 to 59, and 76 per cent were male.

In response to the release of the latest report, Jennifer Whiteside, minister of mental health and addictions, shared her sympathies and said B.C. “will continue our efforts to bolster mental health and addiction services, from early intervention and prevention to treatment and supportive recovery.”

“Each person lost had their own story, their own hopes and dreams, and a circle of loved ones. They were neighbours, parents, siblings and friends, and their passing creates ripples of grief throughout our communities,” Whiteside said.

In February, the provincial government released details about its Budget 2024, which included a commitment of $117 million for mental health and substance use services.

“Budget 2024 also includes additional funding in the capital plan to expand the Red Fish Healing Centre model of care for people with complex mental health and addiction challenges, and the Road to Recovery model that provides seamless access to care across different services,” Whiteside said.

In her final public appearance last month, former chief coroner Lisa Lapointe called for “courageous” changes in the province’s response to the unregulated drug crisis.

Lapointe said that unless government officials are “are willing to act thoughtfully, carefully, and with courage to provide a safer supply for the tens of thousands of people at risk in our province, we will continue to count the dead, more people will suffer and more families will grieve.”

Experts have estimated that about 225,000 people in B.C. use unregulated drugs, while 100,000 of those have opioid-use disorder.

Coincidentally in Langley, local advocate Daniel Snyder with the Langley Community Action Team is hosting a free event to raise awareness about stigma and provide naloxone training on Monday, March 4, at the United Churches of Langley on Old Yale Road.

READ ALSO: Free overdose awareness, naloxone training event coming to Langley

RELATED: YEAR IN REVIEW: Bad year for toxic drugs in Langley

Kyler Emerson

About the Author: Kyler Emerson

I'm excited to start my journalism career in Langley and meet our community.
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