More people have died from drug overdoses in Kamloops in 2020 than in any other year on record.
The city recorded seven such deaths in October, bringing the year’s tally to 50 — double the 25 deaths recorded in 2019 — with two months left on the calendar.
The 50 overdose deaths so far this year puts Kamloops fourth-highest among B.C. cities — 329 in Vancouver, 167 in Surrey and 115 in Victoria.
Across Interior Health, 216 people have died of drug overdoses through October, up sharply from 138 deaths in all of 2019.
Kamloops’ previous high for overdose deaths in a year was 46 in 2018, just ahead of 44 in 2016. In the five years prior to that, the city averaged fewer than six such death annually, with 2016 being the start of mass amounts of fentanyl being added to cocaine and heroin and prompting the province to declare a public health emergency in April of that year.
Across B.C., 162 people died in October after suffering drug overdoses, bringing the total so far for this year to 1,386 — 400-plus more deaths than in all of 2019.
“We are continuing to see record-breaking numbers of people dying in B.C. due to an unsafe drug supply in our province and it’s taking a toll on families and communities in this dual-health emergency,” Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s chief coroner, said in a news release.
“Challenges during COVID-19, such as access to key harm-reduction services and the toxic drug supply, including the extreme concentration of illicit fentanyl, are resulting in continuing significant and tragic loss of life across the province.”
The ongoing opioid overdose crisis has led to increased calls from organizations, health experts and politicians for decriminalization of hard drugs to create a safe supply.