There’s been two sudden deaths in Trail – suspected to be related to drug use – over the past eight days.
Greater Trail police confirmed both the deceased were men, however their ages and names have not been released. The RCMP haven’t issued an alert at this point, because the actual causes of death remain under investigation by the BC Coroners Service.
“There were two sudden deaths of people who were suspected of using drugs,” Acting NCO, Cpl Devon Reid told the Trail Times. “But we haven’t confirmed if it’s fentanyl-related, drug-related or if it’s a health-related issue.”
With no foul play suspected, both cases fall under the jurisdiction of the chief coroners office in Kelowna pending autopsies and subsequent cause of death confirmations.
“We are an assist to the coroner service because we don’t suspect homicide or any sort of foul play,” Reid explained.
“It then becomes a coroner’s investigation and police assist by helping with things like managing the scene … ultimately, the toxicology report and all the findings of cause of death come from the coroner.”
Reid clarified, “We have to wait for the investigation to tell us what the cause of death is before we decide if it’s something the police need to investigate or not.”
It’s difficult to verify whether there has been an increase in non-fatal overdoses as of late.
“The problem is that overdoses don’t always get reported to police,” he said. “We’ll see a rash of them where people report, but other times people will just call and ask for an ambulance and we don’t ever get notified.”
He surmised that street drugs aren’t necessarily on the rise locally, but the risks have increased because of greater exposure to unknown cutting agents.
“I would say, generally speaking, there are the same amount of drug users in the area that there has always been,” Reid said. “But I think there’s a bit of a transition in the drug community to using different types of drugs, whether knowingly or unknowingly.
“A lot of times, the drugs that users have normally been using, are starting to be laced with other substances,” he added.
“Which is making them have different effects that sometimes can be lethal.”
Police are called to any death outside of the hospital, says Union Vice-President David Deines from the Ambulance Paramedics of BC.
But in the case of an overdose, unless there are specific indicators such as a report of violence, police aren’t usually notified.
“Having said that, if the ambulance crew is dispatched, gets on scene and feel that (police) are required, they can ask for them at any time.”
No 9-1-1 call is black and white nor are any two calls the same.
“I hate to use the term ‘routine,’” Deines said. “But a ‘routine’ overdose doesn’t trigger an automatic police response … generally it’s left to the paramedic responding crew.”
As a practicing paramedic on the coast, Deines has responded to hundreds of overdoses.
Years ago, police would generally respond alongside paramedics, he said.
“(Now) it’s a capacity issue for sure and again, I hate to use ‘routine,’” Deines explained. “But if, for example, Vancouver police were routinely dispatched to every routine overdose we have, there wouldn’t be any police around to deal with other serious crimes.”
In efforts to reduce the number of people who die from opioid and other drug overdoses, a new federal law called the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act was introduced six months ago.
The law provides immunity from simple possession charges for anyone calling 911 to report an overdose. According to Health Canada, the law also provides exemption from charges for people on probation, serving a conditional sentence or on parole.
To date, 1,103 people have died from an illicit drug overdose in B.C. this year – 13 of those in the Kootenay Boundary, according to the BC Coroners Service’s most recent statistics.
Fentanyl-related deaths remain the most prevalent of all overdose fatalities in both 2016 and 2017.
The four cities with the most overdoses – Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria and Kelowna – make up approximately half the number of overdose-related deaths in 2017 so far.
Men continue to be the overwhelming majority of those who die of illicit opioid overdose related deaths. So far in 2017, 834 men have died, compared to 179 women.
The crisis has struck people ages 30-39 the hardest. There have been 291 deaths in that age bracket, compared to 250 for ages 40-49 and 198 for ages 50-59.
Nine out of 10 deaths occur when people are inside, with over half of those taking place in private homes.