Nine people died from fentanyl opioid overdoses in the Canadian city of Vancouver in just the past 24 hours, Mayor Gregor Robertson said, Friday
The spike in in drug-related deaths comes as Canada much like the United States, has been struggling to contain an overdose crisis that claimed 2,000 lives last year, with even more expected in 2016.
Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson
Vancouver city mayor, Gregor Robertson addressing a press conference, Friday, lauded existing harm reduction services such as drug consumption rooms in the city, but said more treatment options are urgently needed. He was flanked by the city’s police chief and other emergency officials, as he told the assembled media:
“It’s desperate times in Vancouver and it’s hard to see any silver lining right now when we haven’t hit rock bottom,” he said, warning of more overdoses to come.
Delving into an endemic issue into which the government has poured tens of millions of dollars into bolstering public health emergency responses, with little effect, Robinson said: “Can you imagine nine people dying from another cause in one day in our city?”
Police Chief Adam Palmer in his address called for more help for addicts.
Across the border, the United States has also seen a sudden spike in fentanyl-related deaths, including the apparent overdose of the pop star Prince in April.
Vancouver has seen an average of 15 overdoses a month and police are currently investigating 160 fatalities, Palmer said.
The city coroner’s office said morgues have reached capacity.
Canada Place, Vancouver
Most of the deaths occurred in the gritty Downtown Eastside neighborhood, where an open drug market and extreme poverty persist despite decades of interventions.
As the crisis snowballed, the city council approved a 0.5 percent property tax hike this week to help stem the number of overdoses.
The funds are to go to support frontline emergency workers, shelters and outreach centres.