With an unprecedented surge of more than 400 drug overdose deaths this year in B.C. alone, Vancouver is marking International Overdose Awareness Day with a heightened urgency.
There is a “Solemn March” through the Downtown Eastside at noon, and Tabitha Montgomery, who lost her best friend to a heroin overdose, is hosting a 3 p.m. vigil and rally at Robson Square.
“I wanted to help people in the general public of Vancouver and beyond, know that they’re not alone. It’s extremely personal, but there is nothing to be ashamed of. A lot of us go through a lot of personal things that can be very isolating, and this is just a form of solidarity.”
Montgomery says a lot of people have a story to share, including herself.
“My life has been deeply effected by the addictions of loved ones that did not survive, that also includes a childhood best friend who experimented and did not survive. This effects so many different people from so many different walks of life.”
More than 400 people have died of illicit drug overdoses this year, that’s a 74 per cent increase over last year.
Meanwhile, the Provincial Government’s joint task force on drug overdoses is launching a public awareness campaign today.
It’s also working on a pilot project to test people’s drugs before they are consumed, to find out if it contains fentanyl.
Fentanyl presence remains
We now know 86 per cent of drugs tested at Insite, Vancouver’s supervised injection site, contain fentanyl.
Vancouver Coastal Health says nurses have been testing people’s drugs, and it’s the first time this has been done in Vancouver.
In the first month of testing, from July 7 to August 3, more than 170 checks were performed.
When the drugs contained heroin, 90 per cent tested positive for fentanyl.
Insite is ground zero for the drug overdose crisis in B.C.
Even though daily visits remain steady, there were four times as many overdoses this year, compared to a decade ago.