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B.C. coroner to release 2017 figures today on overdose deaths


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VANCOUVER — Health officials and the Coroners Service of British Columbia are expected to release the total number of overdose fatalities in 2017 today, while the current death toll already exceeds records.

The B.C. coroner has said 1,208 fatalities were recorded in the first 10 months of 2017.

The powerful opioid fentanyl was detected in 999 of the confirmed and suspected deaths during that time, an increase of 136 per cent from the same period in 2016.

The province declared a public health emergency in 2016 because of an unprecedented number of overdose deaths.

The crisis has continued to plague the province into the new year.

Last weekend, Interior Health said seven suspected overdose deaths happened between Jan. 23 and 26.

The coroner is investigating the deaths, but the health authority has warned people to reconsider taking drugs or take extra precautions given the sudden spike in fatalities over a short period of time.

Earlier this week, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy announced an advertising campaign in partnership with the Vancouver Canucks and Rogers Arena aimed at creating conversations about drug use and combating stigma.

The province also began distributing free kits containing the overdose-reversing drug naloxone through pharmacies in December in an effort to curb the deadly crisis.

About 1,900 kits were made available through 220 pharmacies provincewide.

Kits were already available at hospitals, health centres and safe consumption sites and the province has said nearly 30,000 had been handed out in 2017 leading into the latest initiative.

A new app featuring instructional videos developed by a team from St. Paul’s Hospital is being used to teach people how to administer naloxone.