Posts Tagged "coroner"


Illicit drug deaths down this year in B.C., says coroner

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‘Police have become part of the mental health system:’ B.C. Coroner studies deaths after police encounters

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Police across the province need to work closer with mental health officials in assessing vulnerable people with whom they have contact, a new study by the B.C. Coroners Services says.

The Coroners Service put together a panel of experts that reviewed the deaths of 127 people who had contact with police within the previous 24 hour and found two-thirds were struggling with mental health and addiction issues.

Their report – Opportunities for Different Outcomes – recommended improving coordination between health services and police, increasing access to mental health assessment and using findings from police encounters for ongoing professional development.

The deaths in the review occurred over five years from 2013 to the end of 2017 and included 56 suicides, 40 accidental or overdose deaths, seven deemed natural and 21 attributable to police used of force. Three deaths resulted from injuries caused by others.

The study noted that 84 percent of the people on the study were men and 61 percent struggled with illicit drug use.

Indigenous people were overrepresented in the numbers, making up 20 percent of the deaths reviewed despite being just six percent of the B.C. population.

The report noted that police have more than 400,000 encounters with civilians each year for criminal-code or traffic-related offences, “and the vast majority of police interactions are resolved without incident.”

Of those calls, more than 74,000 a year are related to mental health issues.

This review found that of the deaths studied, it was often a metal health or substance abuse issue that led to the original call to police.


“More than half of the decedents were exhibiting mental health symptoms at the time of police contact,” the study said.

Many of the deaths were of people living in rural parts of the province.

Michael Egilson, of the B.C. Coroners Service, chaired the review panel, which included 19 experts in policing, police oversight, public health, health services, mental health and addictions.

Egilson said the report highlights the role of police in responding to mental health emergencies in the community.

“These are situations where police officers de-escalate crisis situations, and assess, triage and transport persons for emergency care to health services or to cells,” he said.

“We need to drive home the point that the police have become part of the mental health system and that their role needs to be acknowledged, supported and incorporated into the larger provincial mental health and addictions strategy.”

The deaths highlighted in the report were anonymized with no names or locations included.

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Drug overdoses killed nearly 1,500 people in 2018, says coroner

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A total of 1,489 people died in B.C. of suspected drug overdoses in 2018, a figure that health officials say will likely increase as ongoing investigations wrap up.

On Thursday, the B.C. Coroners Service released its latest set of data on illicit drug overdose deaths. The number of overdose deaths in 2018 edged past the 1,487 deaths recorded in 2017, though this figure could change as health officials conclude investigations of deaths recorded toward the end of the year.

Even so, chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said the rate at which people were dying continued at an “alarming rate” last year.

“The illicit drug supply is unpredictable and unmanageable, and fentanyl is now implicated in 86 per cent of overdose deaths,” she said in a news release sharing the year-end figures. According to Lapointe, the rate of overdose deaths surpasses the numbers of people dying from car crashes, homicides and suicides combined.

A total of 120 deaths were recorded in November 2018, which works out to about four deaths per day that month.


Innovative and evidence-based approaches are necessary if we want to effect meaningful change and stop the dying. We need to be prepared to do things differently to save lives.”

Middle-aged men continue to be the largest demographic represented in the totals, with men accounting for 80 per cent of suspected overdose deaths and those aged 30 to 59 accounting for 71 per cent of deaths. A total of 86 per cent of deaths occur indoors, with spikes on days immediately following distribution of welfare cheques.

Middle-age men remain the most overrepresented group among overdose deaths.


The number of overdose deaths in 2018 equates to about four deaths per day for the entire year. Of the 365 days of 2018, at least one death was recorded on 354 of those days.

“This latest report confirms what those on the frontline already know all too well: this crisis is not slowing down,” said Dr. Evan Wood, executive director with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use.

“If we’re going to stop overdoses from happening, we urgently need to end the harms caused by prohibition while also implementing upstream responses that address the serious health and social consequences of untreated addiction.”

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The majority of overdose deaths in 2018 occurred indoors at private residences.


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