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HomeNewsOn International Overdose Awareness Day, pondering the grim numbers of B.C.’s other public health emergency

On International Overdose Awareness Day, pondering the grim numbers of B.C.’s other public health emergency


Bob Mackin

In 2019, 750 of the 984 people who died from toxic illicit drugs in British Columbia were male.

Well over half the deaths — 563 — occurred in a private residence.

There were 13 deaths in Maple Ridge alone during the year.

Last week, we found out that one of those 13 was beloved Vancouver hockey writer Jason Botchford, the 48-year-old Coquitlam resident known for his work with The Province, The Athletic and TSN 1040. “Botch” was a repeat winner of the Carson Award for best sportswriter, as voted by his media peers. A GoFundMe campaign to assist Botchford’s family has raised more than $123,000.

Since the tragedy became public in May of last year, sudden heart failure was believed to be the cause of death. The Aug. 11 report from Coroner Kristin Vanderkuip blamed an accidental, lethal concentration of fentanyl and the use of cocaine. Vanderkuip’s report is below.

“We were completely shocked and in disbelief to discover the cause of Jason’s sudden death,” Kathryn Botchford, his widow and the mother of of his three children, wrote in a statement. “The cause does not change who Jason was to all of us but just makes his death that much harder to comprehend. We are still grieving.”

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day, a time to give a close look at the shocking numbers.

In 2019, the year Botchford died, fentanyl was detected in 85% of illicit drug deaths in B.C.

In July 2020 alone, there were 175 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths — a 136% increase over July 2019’s 74. That works out to almost six deaths a day. For the first seven months of 2020, 68% of the dead were 19 to 49-year-olds. Men are 79% of the victims to date.

Botchford died just after the third anniversary of B.C.’s declaration of a public health emergency around drug overdoses.

The 20th anniversary of Vancouver’s Four-Pillar strategy is next January. Harm reduction, prevention, treatment and enforcement were the buzzwords. There are many ideas from many experts across the spectrum, from safe supply of drugs to stabilize addicts to treatment programs to help addicts kick the habit.

In life, Botchford inspired a new generation of hockey bloggers and podcasters. Perhaps, in death, Botchford’s memory can inspire discourse about solving the scourge of addiction. 

If you are struggling with addiction or know someone who is, there is help: Go to Stop Overdose B.C.

Cr Jason Michael Hauk Botchford 2019-0297-0066 by Bob Mackin on Scribd