Preliminary data released today point to emerging trends that First Nations peoples are over-represented in the opioid crisis (B.C. government)

First Nations people in B.C. three times more likely to die of overdose

New figures paint a disturbing image of the overdose crisis for First Nations people

First Nations people in B.C. are three times more likely to die of a drug overdose.

They’re also five times more likely to experience an overdose.

That, according to new provincial data released Thursday – a piece of the epidemic that has been unknown in Indigenous communities since the crisis began.

According to the report, First Nations people made up about 10 per cent of the overdose deaths between January 2015 and July 31, 2016, or roughly 60 people.

While 3.4 per cent of B.C.’s population is status First Nations people, the proportion of those overdosing – with some resulting in death – was about 14 per cent, or 1,903 overdoses.

ONE YEAR LATER: B.C.’s first public health emergency continues

So why are First Nations grappling with such a high percentage of deaths?

First Nations Health Authority deputy chief medical officer Dr. Shannon McDonald said anecdotal research shows substance abuse in communities is often linked to inter-generational trauma, racism and reduced access to mental health treatments.

As an example, more First Nations women fatally overdosed than non-First Nations women because “unspeakable experiences” they faced as young girls in poverty, she said.

“We urge health practitioners, media and the public to learn about the roots of addiction for First Nations and Aboriginal peoples, including the trauma from historic and ongoing colonial policies and discrimination – and to practice cultural humility in a collective response in partnership with First Nations and Aboriginal peoples,” she said.

Similar to province-wide strategies already implemented, officials are looking at the most effective harm reduction strategies within impacted communities that remain custom to cultural needs of Indigenous peoples.

Practical strategies have already included training 110 groups on how to use naloxone, as well as a 24-hour crisis line for those seeking culturally sensitive emotional support, according to the health authority.

Harm reduction and treatment will also have to consider the proximity more rural communities have to services for both addiction and mental health.

Within the communities, abstinence-based treatment strategies are deeply rooted into some groups’ cultural practices, whereas other health authorities have turned to suboxone and methadone treatment.

Research, supported by B.C. Coroner Service chief coroner Lisa Lapointe, also suggests medical-grade heroin replacement treatment to be an effective option, but also a spectrum of options for those looking for help.

McDonald said the health authorities commitment is to “to go and listen to communities about what their concerns are, and to offer them information and offer them choices.”

Year-old data a start for addressing strategy

First Nations leaders have urged officials for data to begin addressing the fatalities and overdose in the past.

Health officials have faced significant challenges in gathering data on First Nations specifically, leaving the most recent data a year to a year-and-a-half behind provincial data from the coroners.

Sharing agreements, differences of how hospitals collect data in emergency rooms and coroners tracking race and ethnicity of overdose fatalities have been barriers, officials said.

But despite the data being outdated, grand chief Doug Kelly said the data serves as the beginning of addressing an ongoing problem that can’t be ignored.

If current trends continue, the province could see close to 1,400 overdose deaths by the end of the year. Kelly said it’s time to start addressing the root causes of drug addiction.

“Our leadership and caregivers know that our people are in pain, and that far too many of our people self-medicate with alcohol and prescription and non-prescription drugs to numb this pain,” he said. “We need to address our unresolved grief.”

 

Every day I’m more in awe of outreach/mental health wkrs, paramedics, nurses, drs, FF, police, volunteers on front line of #overdosecrisis.” (Twitter - @DarcyJudy)

Just Posted

Coming to Canada ‘like a dream’

Syrian family meets volunteers, councillor after living in Parksville for one month

Parksville water project seeks new manager

City operations manager moving to new job with RDN

SOGI rally disrupts school board meeting, but business carries on

Chilliwack school board makes statement in support of B.C.-wide gender identity teaching resource

Workers evacuated due to gas smell in Parksville

Firefighters, Fortis unable to find source, and workers back to work

Qualicum Beach makes list of top places to visit in 2018

Expedia Canada surveyed 1,000 Canadians for the list

Parksville MakerSpace members ride the rails

New room added for model train enthusiasts; workshop set for Jan. 21

World’s fastest log car made in B.C. sells for $350,000 US

Cedar Rocket auctioned off three times at Barrett-Jackson Co., netting $350,000 US for veterans

Bad timing: Shutdown spoils Trump’s one-year festivities

Trump spends day trying to hash out a deal with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer

Woman in Nanaimo buys $70 worth of ice cream with allegedly stolen debit card

Purchase said to have occurred on Jan. 11 at 2 a.m. at Nicol General Store

RCMP nail sex toy thief

Shop owner plays a role in arrest

Ice-cream-eating bear draws controversy

An Alberta Wildlife Park posted a video this week of one of their bears going through a Dairy Queen drive-through

Fernie, RCMP go to court over city log books in fatal ammonia leak probe

Log books center stage in clashing of investigations between the city and RCMP

UPDATE: Police continue to seek missing Qualicum Beach woman

Oceanside RCMP requesting public assistance in locating Carmel Georgina Gilmour

Renowned Comox Valley sasquatch researcher passes away

A renowned biologist and leading Canadian sasquatch researcher who called the Comox… Continue reading

Most Read