Drug overdose deaths continue as B.C.’s COVID-19 case count rises
VANCOUVER -- As the COVID-19 case count climbs in B.C., the province's other health emergency, the overdose crisis, continues to claim lives.
Around five people die per day in B.C. due to an overdose, which is more than the number of people currently dying from coronavirus infections in B.C.
For years, drug users, friends, activists and family members have been demanding action to end the overdose crisis. Now, another parent who’s lost a child to an overdose is speaking out and demanding government action.
John Butler’s daughter, Olivia, died last month after taking heroin laced with an extreme amount of fentanyl.
“I went down to her place and I saw her sitting in her bathroom,” he said.
“The minute I saw her … I knew she was gone.”
Contributing to the overdose crisis is an increasingly toxic drug supply, as normal illicit drug trade routes are stymied by border closures.
For example, police in Victoria recently seized a kilogram of fentanyl during an investigation into organized crime. That's enough to supply about 495,000 lethal doses.
Butler describes his late daughter as kind-hearted, and said that the 21-year-old became addicted to heroin as a teenager.
The coroner called her death an accidental overdose.
Olivia was using alone when she died, and Butler believes she didn't know the drugs she had bought were so toxic. But, he believes her dealer knew.
“Somebody put a known substance … known as a poison ... in a product they knew they were selling,” he said.
For years, doctors in B.C. have called on governments to legalize street drugs and create a safe supply. In the spring, the province moved to increase the supply and availability of opioid replacement drugs, but overdose deaths have continued to climb. More than 1,000 people in B.C. have died of an overdose this year.
Butler is calling for more addiction treatment facilities. When trying to help Olivia, he struggled to find funding for rehab and a space in treatment.
“When we found out she was doing heroin, there was hardly any support in place whatsoever,” he said.
And now, not a day goes by that his heart doesn't ache for Olivia.
“The worst is having to live … the rest of your life … missing your daughter,” he said.
With files from CTV National News’s Melanie Nagy.