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A statement from Northern Health’s Medical Health Officers on the six-year anniversary of BC’s toxic drug crisis as a public health emergency

Northern Health
News Release

Six years ago today, on April 14, 2016, Public Health Officials took the significant step of using the Public Health Act to formally declare the overdose crisis a public health emergency.

Since that declaration, British Columbia has lost over 9,410 innocent lives to the toxic drug supply. Northern Health wants to take this opportunity to acknowledge this tragic loss of life and reiterate our commitment to working with our partners to address the harms that impact the lives of people who use substances in our province and region.

The involvement of people with lived or living experience of drug use (peers) is a critical component of effective overdose prevention work. A network has been established to support connection between peers in the North, and to enable engagement with health care service providers. Regarding the anniversary, the Northern Health peer coordinator, shares the following:

“Six years ago the BC government made something official that those of us in the drug user community knew all too well – we were facing an absolutely devastating loss of life.

In the six years since the overdose crisis was declared a public health emergency, the numbers of fatalities from a toxic drug supply have increased exponentially. The numbers aren’t just data to be collected and researched – for thousands and thousands of families in BC they actually represent the soul crushing grief of someone beloved never coming home.

As the number of ‘anniversaries’ of this date continue to roll over, each year it gets harder and harder to acknowledge the reality of this much suffering.

We – as individuals, communities, health care providers and advocates, and governments – need to do better.

Every life lost to overdose had profound meaning and value. Every overdose death was preventable. In honour of those who have lost their lives to drug toxicity, we need to ensure that our legacy is a resilient fight to end this brutality.

More information

View more information on overdose prevention, including current toxic drug alerts and available services and supports.