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B.C. recorded more overdose calls in 2021 than ever before

Every health region in B.C. saw an increase in overdose calls during 2021
2021 was a record-breaking year for overdose calls

There were more 911 overdose calls last year in B.C. than ever before.

B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) received to close to 100 calls a day requiring paramedics to respond and, often, to bring patients back to life.

BCEHS says that during the pandemic, the number of overdose calls have steadily increased, and 2021 was another record-breaking year.

Last year, paramedics responded to 35,525 overdoses – an increase of 31 per cent over the previous year.

Surrey saw the most dramatic jump in calls, with an almost 50 per cent increase. Paramedics responded to 3,674 overdose calls in Surrey in 2021.

“Overdoses are a regular part of every paramedic shift in Surrey,” said unit chief Mike Topping.

Every health region saw an increase in overdose calls during 2021.

Fraser Health saw a 45 per cent increase, while the Interior Health (IH) region saw a 29 per cent jump.

In IH, Kelowna led the way with 1,588 calls, Kamloops had 1,068, Penticton had 748, while Vernon recorded 457 calls.

Northern Health, which saw a dramatic increase in overdose calls in 2020, had the smallest increase in 2021. Also, Northern Health showed a 16 per cent increase, about half the provincial average.

  • Vancouver Coastal: 11,204 (+24%)
  • Fraser Health: 10,573 (+45%)
  • Island Health: 5,917 (+32%)
  • Interior Health: 5,417 (+29%)
  • Northern Health: 2,414 (+16%)

The Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Valley regions continue to have the highest number of overdose calls as they include about 50 per cent of the province’s population. Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria remain the top communities for overdose calls.

  • Vancouver: 9,993 (+23%)
  • Surrey: 3,674 (+49%)
  • Victoria: 1,952 (+24%)

Almost every community in B.C. had more overdose patients in 2021 than the previous year – but some bucked the trend.

  • Courtenay: 127% increase; total overdoses 2021: 467
  • Cranbrook: 84% increase; total overdoses 2021: 191
  • Mission: 82% increase; total overdoses 2021: 397
  • Fort St. John: 22% decrease, total overdoses 2021: 97
  • Quesnel: 25% decrease, total overdoses 2021: 157

For a full list of community overdose call volumes, visit BCEHS.