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Vancouver sees 174 overdose calls in one week, highest so far in 2017

Vancouver Police officers work in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver on July 11, 2016.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Emergency crews in Vancouver say they are dealing with an "extremely high" number of overdose calls, including 174 last week.

The city says the number of overdose calls Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services received between Feb. 26 to March 5 was the highest so far this year, and much higher than historical data.

The majority of the calls were in the Downtown Eastside, but the number of cases outside the downtown area also increased.

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Vancouver police also reported 14 suspected overdose deaths across the city last week, six more than the previous week.

Mayor Gregor Robertson says drug overdose deaths due to the ongoing fentanyl crisis continue to have a devastating impact throughout Vancouver.

"The city shoulders a huge burden of the drug overdose response, and our first responders and frontline community workers are at a breaking point," he said in a news release on Thursday.

A record 922 people died from overdoses last year in B.C., which has declared a public health emergency. The city says nearly 25 per cent of those deaths were in Vancouver.

Pivot Legal Society said changes are needed by the federal government to make it easier for organizations to open supervised injection sites.

"Supervised injection sites continue to await approval," Caitlin Shane, Pivot legal's drug policy campaigner, said in a statement. "There are still significant barriers to proven opioid treatments; doctors on the front lines are under-resourced; communities are overburdened and struggling to save lives on a daily basis."

Video: How overdose fatalities in B.C. compare to other causes of death
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