Nine people died of drug overdoses in Vancouver on Thursday night, nearly all of them on the Downtown Eastside, officials said.
That has emergency responders calling for more access to addiction treatment in order to get those addicted off the street.
Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer compared the nine deaths to the 11 homicides and 15 motor vehicle deaths so far this year.
“Can you imagine nine dying from any other cause in one single day?” Palmer told a news conference.
Addicts are having to wait about nine days to get into a treatment facility in Vancouver, he said, which is too long.
“You lose the window to help within hours,” he said. “We need to help them right away as they are at risk of dying if we don’t help them.”
Mayor Gregor Robertson talked about how harm reduction, such as handing out Naloxone kits, isn’t going to solve this problem.
Providence Crosstown Clinic on West Hastings Street provides hydromorphone to 125 people per day, he said, the only option for replacement therapy to addicts, and more is needed.
“We’ve been treading water for years,” he said. “We have to focus now on the treatment piece.”
Another four people died Thursday after drug use throughout the rest of the province, according to the B.C. Coroners Service. One in Burnaby, two in the Fraser Region and one in northern B.C.
Last month, the provincial government promised $5 million to help paramedics respond faster, as part of its strategy to combat the overdose crisis.
It also announced the opening of a handful of overdose prevention sites in regions with some of the highest overdose deaths rates this year, including Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria.
And earlier this week, B.C. also enacted a ministerial order to allows emergency health services to provide overdose prevention treatment as necessary on an emergency basis.
Vancouver city councillors themselves also hiked property taxes to help fight the local opioid crisis.
— Ashley Wadhwani (@ashwadhwani) December 16, 2016