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'I'm horrified': Nanaimo sees record-setting number of overdose deaths


The latest numbers in B.C.'s toxic drug crisis paint another discouraging picture. In just the first 10 months of 2022, Nanaimo has eclipsed its previous record for overdose deaths recorded over an entire year.

The worrisome trend is being partly blamed on a deadly supply of drugs circulating in the Mid-Island community.

"The chaotic illicit drug market is extremely difficult to manage," said B.C.'s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe.

Drug-user advocates say the spike in Nanaimo also underscores the need for more safe supply. Meanwhile, volunteers at an overdose prevention site in the city say Nanaimo needs more places where users can be supervised.

"If they overdose or get a bad batch, there's somebody here to save their life," said volunteer Byron Dunbar on Wednesday.

The province acknowledges that the numbers coming out of Nanaimo are bleak.

"[It's a] terrible outcome of, again, terribly increased drug toxicity," said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and MLA for Nanaimo.

The province says more safe supply is coming across B.C. and that an announcement on harm reduction in Nanaimo is scheduled for Friday.

It's help that many say was needed long ago. Nearly 11,000 people have died from overdoses in B.C. since a public health emergency was declared in 2016, including nearly 2,000 deaths in just the first 10 months of this year.

Of those deaths, 179 occurred in October alone, or about an average of 5.8 deaths per day throughout the month.

"It's pretty discouraging you know? I'm kind of thinking, when are we going to start helping people?" said resident Jessica Michalofsky.

Michalofsky has been running laps around the Ministry of Health building in Victoria for the past two months trying to raise awareness about the overdose crisis after her son, Aubrey, died in August from an overdose.

Leslie McBain with advocacy group Moms Stop The Harm, agrees that the numbers are concerning.

"I'm horrified," she said. "I am sad. As I said, it's kind of like Groundhog Day. It's the same numbers, essentially."

Across the Island Health service area, 313 people have died of overdoses between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31 of this year. That's down slightly from 330 seen during the same time period in 2021, but up from 273 seen in 2020, and 168 recorded in 2019. Top Stories

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