IN an ongoing effort to stem the opioid overdose public health crisis, the City of Surrey has been a principal partner in the multi-faceted Opioid Project. The preliminary data released by Statistics Canada show that Surrey has proportionally the same characteristics for opioid overdoes as the rest of the province. The results generated by this work are fundamental to identifying the risk factors to help inform and implement precision policy and programs to combat this crisis.
“As the first city to deploy real time overdose cluster reporting and one of the first fire departments in the province to be equipped with lifesaving Naloxone, the City of Surrey has been proactive in battling the opioid crisis,” said Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum on Tuesday. “The preliminary information that has been released today on the Opioid Project is another example of the leading role Surrey is taking to develop meaningful strategies that will ultimately save more lives.”
“The preliminary data is integral to the City of Surrey’s ongoing battle of this public health crisis,” said Chief Len Garis, Surrey Fire Service. “We will continue to be an active participant in this project as we continue to work together to gather more data in an effort to get an upper hand on the opioid overdose epidemic.”
Launched in the autumn of 2017, the project brings together all levels of government with the goal of sharing data that will result in a better understanding of the factors that lead to opioid use and how better to develop effective interventions.
The Opioid Project is a partnership between the City of Surrey, Statistics Canada, Surrey Fire Services, the Surrey RCMP, Fraser Health Authority, British Columbia Coroners Service, British Columbia Stats, British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, British Columbia Ministry of Health and Public Safety Canada .The data generated by the project identifies the primary risk factors and create a better understanding of the characteristics of those individuals most at risk of opioid use or overdose – including those using and dying in their residence.
Statistics Canada report
Use of hospital and emergency services
Overall, 26% of people who died of an illicit drug overdose in British Columbia (and 23% in Surrey) had experienced at least one acute care in-patient hospitalization in the 12 months prior to death.
Among these hospitalizations, 15% of people who fatally overdosed in British Columbia were hospitalized only once in the year prior to their death, while 6% were hospitalized more than twice. In Surrey, 13% were hospitalized only once in the year prior to fatal overdose, and 4% more than twice.
Substance-use disorders were the most common reasons for a person’s hospitalization in the year prior to fatal overdose, accounting for 20% of hospitalizations. In addition, 17% of people in British Columbia and 22% in Surrey were admitted for opioid poisoning in the year prior to fatal overdose.
Other reasons for hospitalization included mental health conditions (excluding substance-use disorders) and injury and poisonings (excluding opioid poisonings).
In addition to acute care hospitalizations, more than 40% of those who fatally overdosed visited the emergency department at least once in the year prior to death, while 15% did so four or more times.
Employment and income
In British Columbia, 26% of people who died from an illicit drug overdose were employed in each of the five years prior to death. This was the case for 28% of people who fatally overdosed in Surrey.
In contrast, 34% of people who died from an illicit drug overdose in British Columbia had no earnings over this same time period, compared with 28% in Surrey.
The remaining people had employment earnings in one to four years, indicating at least some workforce attachment over the reference period. The contrast in these statistics shows that this crisis impacts individuals from all walks of life—the employed and the unemployed alike.
Among those who were employed before they fatally overdosed in British Columbia, about one-fifth worked in construction. An additional 13% worked in building maintenance, waste management and other support service industries.
People in British Columbia who were employed in the year prior to their fatal overdose earned, on average, $28,437 that year. By comparison, workers in British Columbia reported an average employment income of $42,000 in 2016.
A similar pattern was also observed for social assistance. In British Columbia, 40% of people who fatally overdosed did not receive any social assistance benefits (or provincial or territorial supplements) in all five years prior to death, compared with 31% who received assistance in each of the five years.
On average, recipients of social assistance benefits in the year prior to death received $8,259.
Contacts with police
For the purposes of this study, a contact with the police occurs when a person is accused of a criminal incident. It does not include instances where a person interacts with the police as a victim, witness or complainant.
The majority of people who died of an illicit drug overdose―around two-thirds in both British Columbia and Surrey―did not have contact with police in the two years prior to their death.
Of those who did have contact with police in the 24 months prior to their fatal overdose, some did so multiple times. For example, 11% of people who fatally overdosed in British Columbia and Surrey had four or more contacts with the police in the 24 months preceding their death.
Most people who came into contact with police in the 24 months prior to their fatal overdose did so for a non-violent criminal incident, with shoplifting of items valued at $5,000 or under being the most common reason in both British Columbia (14%) and Surrey (17%).
By comparison, this offence accounted for 5% of all criminal incidents in the whole of the province from 2009 to 2016.
Offences against the administration of justice, namely failure to comply with an order and breach of probation, were also among the most common reasons for contact with police in the two years prior to fatal overdose.
Around three-quarters of those who fatally overdosed in British Columbia and Surrey who had had contact with police died within one year of that police interaction.
One-third of people who fatally overdosed in British Columbia (24% in Surrey) who had had contact with police died within three months of the contact.