Dr. Shannon Waters, Cowichan Valley’s medical health officer, said deaths due to poisoned illicit drugs increased in the Cowichan Valley during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Citizen file photo)

Dr. Shannon Waters, Cowichan Valley’s medical health officer, said deaths due to poisoned illicit drugs increased in the Cowichan Valley during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Citizen file photo)

22 drug-related deaths in Cowichan region in first eight months of 2022

Medical health officer said local drug deaths increased during pandemic

There has been 22 deaths due to illicit drug poisoning in the Cowichan Valley in 2022 up until the end of August.

Dr. Shannon Waters, Cowichan Valley’s medical health officer, shared that information with Duncan’s city council on Dec. 5 while talking about a health and wellness survey that Island Health and Our Cowichan Communities Health Network have partnered to carry out in the region in 2023.

A chart used in Shannon’s presentation indicated that approximately 70 people died from using illicit drugs in the Cowichan Valley from 2019 through 2021.

RELATED STORY: LAKE COWICHAN AREA SAW FIVE DEATHS RELATED TO TOXIC DRUGS IN FIRST NINE MONTHS OF 2022

So far in the province in 2022, at least 1,827 people have died from toxic drugs, which is just nine deaths fewer than during the same period last year, according to a report released last week.

Waters told Duncan’s council that mental-health issues is currently the number-one health burden in the Cowichan Valley, and across B.C.

She said issues like people’s sense of belonging in the community, their connections with friends and their feelings of helplessness have all been impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We can’t speak to mental health issues without speaking to the illicit drug poisoning crisis,” Waters said.

“This has continued to worsen during the time of the pandemic. We are no better or worse here than in other regions of Vancouver Island in terms of death rates but, specifically during the pandemic, we did see drug poisoning deaths go up in the Valley.”

RELATED STORY: MAPPING WHERE OVERDOSES ARE MORE LIKELY TO KILL IN B.C.

Shannon said some of the increase in deaths are affiliated with health measures taken during the pandemic, like keeping distance from each other, and that can exacerbate the social connections that are needed to help keep people alive during the drug-poisoning crisis.

The health and wellness survey that will be carried out by Island Health and Our Cowichan Communities Health Network next year is meant to capture local-level data on the health and wellness, neighbourhood characteristics, and community belonging of Cowichan Valley residents who are 18 years and older.

The survey’s results will be used to improve future community health services and programs in the region.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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