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Overdose calls highest ever recorded

Every day in B.C. close to 100 people overdose, requiring a 9-1-1 medical emergency call and paramedics to respond, and often, to bring them back to life.
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​During the pandemic the number of overdose calls has steadily increased. This past year was another record-breaking year for overdoses. 

In 2021, medical emergency call takers and paramedics responded to 35,525 overdoses – up 31 per cent over the previous year. 

One of the areas to see a dramatic increase in overdose call volumes is Surrey, with almost a 50 per cent increase over the previous year. Paramedics responded to 3,674 overdose calls in the City of Surrey in 2021. 

“Overdoses are a regular part of every paramedic shift in Surrey,” says unit chief Mike Topping. While saying this, paramedics rushed past him to respond to an overdose just outside the doors of the ambulance station on 96th Avenue in Surrey. 

Every health region across the province saw an increase in overdose calls in 2021. However, Northern Health, which had a dramatic increase in overdose calls in 2020, had the least this year, in terms of increases. 

The Northern Health Authority showed only a 16 per cent increase, not only the smallest among health authorities, but about half the provincial average.

It meant Prince George, usually in the top-five communities for overdose calls dropped off the top-five list; it was replaced by the community of Abbotsford. 

Here is a closer look at the overdose numbers broken down by health region, with percentage increase over the previous year:

  • Vancouver Coastal: 11,204 (+24%)
  • Fraser Health: 10,573 (+45%)
  • Island Health: 5,917 (+32%)
  • Interior Health: 5,417 (+29%)
  • Northern Health: 2,414 (+16%)
The Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Valley regions continue to have the highest number of overdose calls as they include about 50 per cent of the province’s population. Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria remain the top communities for overdose calls. 

  • Vancouver: 9,993 (+23%)
  • Surrey: 3,674 (+49%)
  • Victoria: 1,952 (+24%)
Almost every community in B.C. had more overdose patients in 2021 than the previous year. 

A few communities stand out for being above the provincial average and for showing a significant increase in overdoses – and a few others are noteworthy for bucking the trend provincially and recording fewer overdoses in 2021. 

Courtenay: 127% increase; Total Overdoses 2021: 467
Cranbrook: 84% increase; Total Overdoses 2021: 191
Mission: 82% increase; Total Overdoses 2021: 397

Fort St. John: 22% decrease, Total Overdoses 2021: 97
Quesnel: 25% decrease, Total Overdoses 2021: 157

For a full list of community overdose call volumes, see:
SOURCE: Overdose calls highest ever recorded ( )
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