FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Fort St. John was one of two communities in B.C. to record fewer drug poisoning calls in 2021 than the previous year as the province responded to a record-breaking amount of overdoses.

A report from BC Emergency Health Services shows local paramedics responded to 97 overdose calls in 2021, down 22 per cent from 125 calls received in 2020 — making Fort St. John and Quesnel the only communities to record decreases last year.

The province saw a 31 per cent increase in calls in 2021, recording 35,525 overdoses — or 97 calls a day.

Since 2016, Fort St. John paramedics have responded to 552 overdose calls.

In Dawson Creek, 69 overdose calls were recorded in 2021, up from 53 in 2020. Fort Nelson remained steady, with paramedics responding to 20 calls in 2021 and 2020.

By health authority, Northern Health had the smallest increase in 2021 at 16 per cent, with 2,414 calls last year. Vancouver Coastal had the highest with 11,204 overdose calls, up 24 per cent.

Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria responded to the most overdose calls in 2021.

Surrey almost saw a 50 per cent increase from 2020, with 3,674 calls. Vancouver paramedics responded to 9,993 calls, a 12 per cent increase, and Victoria responded to 1,952 calls, an increase of 24 per cent.

Between January and October 2021, there were 23 overdose deaths reported in Northeast B.C.

Northern Health sent out an alert last week stating there has been an increase in opioid overdoses in the region.

The health authority says the substances are highly toxic and may be contaminated with benzodiazepines (benzos), causing heavy and prolonged sedation.

More naloxone is required to reverse the effects, Northern Health said.