New numbers from health officials and first responders in British Columbia confirm a province-wide drug overdose crisis shows no sign of abating.
BC Emergency Health Services says it responded to 109 suspected overdoses around B.C. on Thursday, with 71 of those calls coming from the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health districts, within Metro Vancouver.
A further 38 calls were spread across Vancouver Island, the Interior and northern health districts, and a spokeswoman for Emergency Health Services says while Thursday was busy, Wednesday marked an all-time record for calls for paramedics.
Preet Grewal says the service answered 130 suspected overdose calls that day, adding it was too early to tell how many may have been linked to powerful opioids such as fentanyl.
She says the spike coincided with the monthly release of social assistance cheques, and the service is prepared for a challenging weekend.
Grewal says a squad of paramedics on bikes will be deployed to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside on the weekend so the service can respond as quickly as possible to any overdose calls.
"We normally increase staffing around this time of the month, around social-assistance cheque day, just to deal with an increased number of calls. We are doing that, as needed, especially in Surrey and Vancouver and throughout the province."
On Thursday, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services said its crews saw a 29 per cent jump in overdose calls between April 17 and 23, while the BC Coroners Service says 120 overdose deaths occurred across the province in March, making that month the third-deadliest on record.
The coroners service reports 347 drug overdose fatalities occurred in the first three months of this year, putting the total on track to surpass the record 931 illicit drug deaths across B.C. last year.