Northeast B.C. illicit drug deaths unreported in January

Statistics released by the BC Coroners Service shows that there were no illicit drug deaths reported in northeast B.C. in January 2023.

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A needle and vial sitting next to a definition of fentanyl.

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Statistics released by the BC Coroners Service show that there were no illicit drug deaths reported in northeast B.C. in January 2023.

According to a B.C. Coroners Service report released Tuesday, East Kootenay also recorded no illicit drug deaths for January. 

There were 13 illicit drug deaths in the north at the beginning of 2023.

Northern Health reported an average of 50.9 illicit drug deaths person 100,000 people — the third highest rate in the province, behind Vancouver Coastal at 63.8 and Vancouver Island at 52.

British Columbia saw a total of 211 suspected illicit drug deaths in January, which averaged out to approximately 6.8 deaths per day. 

The total number of overdoses is up two per cent from December 2022 but down two per cent compared to January 2022. 

The coroner’s report indicated that of the 211 deaths, 69 per cent were between the ages of 30 and 59, and 77 per cent were male. 

The report also stated that while two deaths occurred at overdose prevention sites, one in 2022, and one in 2023, there is no indication that prescribed safe supply is contributing to illicit drug deaths. 

On Tuesday, Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said toxic drugs were an “ever-present” danger for illicit drug users. She also stated that recent announcements and initiatives from the province surrounding treatment and recovery are “encouraging and necessary.”

One of these initiatives launched in January was the NDP government’s pilot project to decriminalize certain drugs for personal use to help fight B.C.’s ongoing opioid crisis. 

The decriminalization has been heavily critiqued, including by interim BC Conservative Leader Trevor Bolin

Northern Health has spent the past year trying to establish an overdose prevention site in Fort St. John. The health authority was able to sign a long-term lease for a permanent health service centre that will include an overdose prevention site. 

The Association for Community Living is also in the process of opening treatment and withdrawal beds in Fort St. John

To read more about the toxic drug crisis and its effect on northeast B.C., check out’s third installment of the Code Grey series, Code Grey: Realities of substance use, opioid epidemic. 

With files from the Canadian Press

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