This week, during my chat with Karen Ward about the human toll of the opioid, health and homelessness crises all running in lockstep on Vancouver’s downtown eastside, I referenced the mortality rate from opioid overdoses…and it struck me later that this needed a proper, not off-hand, fact check. (Price Talks Ep12—listen here.)
Is the situation in our inner city really as bad as in places like Lesotho or Guatemala? (“Exercise a high degree of caution” about these countries, says the Government of Canada.) And should this neighbourhood carry the stigma of crisis and chaos on its own, or are there issues of significance elsewhere in the city…in the region….or across the province?
The animated map on this page tells the story, courtesy of data provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control and the BC Coroners Service — you can access their public data on the topic of overdose deaths here.
Note the tiny spot in the inset map; the downtown eastside neighbourhood has consistently been at South Africa-Honduras levels of homicide death rate since 2010 — of course, not from homicides, but from drug overdose deaths, typically correlated with measurable levels of tainted drug supply (and within that, typically fentanyl).
Overall, the scope and pace of tragedy across our province is unprecedented and utterly alarming.
Where’s our travel advisory? Where’s the emergency response?
And is the brightening of the colours for 2018 indicative that we’re nearing the light at the end of this tunnel, or will Q4 numbers cast a darker shadow over even more of the province?