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PG paramedics see calls for potential drug overdoses more than double in July

Prince George cracked the top five in July when it came to overdose calls.

According to the BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), paramedics responded to 128 9-1-1 calls for potential overdoses, more than doubling the city’s average of 52 calls per month.

Jordan Harris is the executive director of the POUNDS Project non-profit group stated that border closures related to the pandemic created a contaminated drug supply along with a reduction in services.

“The needle exchange operated by the health authority (Northern Health) had to reduce the number of services that they were able to offer for overdose prevention and all of those things together created a perfect storm for overdoses.”

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“And then a lot of those services also became less available or not available at all. The POUNDS project overdose prevention site closed in April because the setup of our space didn’t allow us to safely provide overdose services during COVID.”

She added drugs like GHB are being put into an already toxic supply making it more difficult for the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone to be properly administered.

“We have people out here who have reversed hundreds of overdoses in the last five years and some of them are friends, family or complete strangers on the street but with the contaminated drug supply, the overdose presentation has changed.”

“These are just extremely potent versions of those drugs that are being put into the supply and the Naloxone that we give people works to restore their breathing to a normal level but because there are so many other sedating drugs on board they are not regaining consciousness.”

The city has recorded 16 overdose deaths so far this year, down slightly from the 2019 total of 25.

Between 2018-2020, PG has had 98 drug toxicity deaths, leaving the city with a death rate of 38.1 over the last three years.

Vancouver Coastal Health has the highest rate of illicit drug deaths among all the health authorities at 33 per 100,000 people, Northern Health is next at 32 per 100,000.

Deb Trumbley who is the Northern Director of Patient Care Delivery for BC Emergency Health Services stated in a March interview with, overdose calls resulted in about 6% of the total call volume for local paramedics in 2019.

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Overall, paramedics across the province responded to 2,706 overdose calls in July, which equates to 87 overdose calls a day in BC.

It’s the highest number of monthly overdoses recorded since the crisis was declared in 2016 according to BCEHS.

The average is usually about 2,000 overdose calls a month.

Here is the full breakdown:

JULY Overdose Calls in the Top-10 communities in BC:

Vancouver                          739

Surrey                                  244

Victoria                                139

Kelowna                               138

Prince George                     128

Abbotsford                           94

Kamloops                              89

Nanaimo                               71

Langley                                  64

Burnaby                                 53

Prince George Overdose Calls:

  • The community of Prince George generally averages about 52 overdose calls a month.
  • But last month (July) there were 128 9-1-1 calls for potential overdoses.
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