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Tents line the sidewalk on East Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on July 28.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Nearly six people a day are dying of overdoses in British Columbia, a toll the coroner says puts the province on track to surpass 2,000 drug deaths for another year.

The service says 171 people died of toxic drugs in September, bringing the total for the year to 1,644, the largest number ever recorded for the first nine months of a calendar year.

A statement from Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says illicit drug toxicity is the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C. and second only to cancers for years of life lost.

Ms. Lapointe notes that recommendations made by a provincial committee on health last week echoed those of a recent death-review panel, emphasizing the need for a framework on treatment and recovery services.

Ms. Lapointe says illicit drugs are killing both those who use occasionally and those who are substance-dependent.

“Individuals who have been abstinent for a period of time or those who normally use stimulants are at increased risk. Their opioid tolerance is low and the prevalence of fentanyl in the illicit supply is high.”

About two-thirds of those who have died in 2022 were between the ages of 30 and 59, and 79 per cent of them were male.

The coroner says at least 10,505 British Columbians have died since the public-health emergency into overdose deaths was declared in April, 2016.

The figure is released as Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of mental health and addictions, announced $5-million for chronic pain resources Canada-wide, saying many of those who died from overdoses in B.C. had previously asked for help for their pain.

She says up to $4.5-million over five years will go toward expanding the Pain Canada Network, enhancing national collaboration, scaling up best practices and expanding resources for those living with chronic pain.

Another $520,000 will support a project to improve access to services for LGBTQ residents in B.C., as well as those in Chinese, Punjabi and Arabic-speaking communities living with chronic pain.

Ms. Bennett says the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated challenges for those living with pain, including access to adequate health services and support.

Her announcement came as the BC Coroners Service said 171 people died in September from the toxic drug crisis, putting the province on track to surpass 2,000 overdose deaths for another year.

Ms. Bennett says that data shows many of those who have died in B.C. sought treatment for their pain in the previous year.

“We have all heard about people being cut off their meds and then going to the street for their drugs. We don’t think people should live in pain,” Ms. Bennett says.

“This will help increase pain management options and awareness about best practices from coast to coast to coast.”