Opioid death toll rises

Concern continues to rise around the number of opioid related deaths in Yukon. Since January 2020, 13 individuals have died as a result of drug overdoses, 11 of which can be directly linked to opioids. The numbers were jointly released today by Yukon’s Chief Coroner Heather Jones, Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley and Minister of Health and Social Services Pauline Frost.

The announcement comes with a caution to all drug users to be extremely cautious in what they are using and who they are buying from. In May this year, the coroner and Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health issued a first warning, advising individuals not to use alone and to ensure they have a naloxone kit readily available.  

There are currently plans under way to expand drug testing and explore the possibility of a supervised consumption site in Yukon.

These deaths are heartbreaking. With each death, our community loses a son or a daughter, a neighbour or a colleague. People need to be aware about the dangers of illicit drug use and know that opioid use does not discriminate. This is a complex problem that we need to address as a community. This includes working to reduce the stigma around people who use drugs, which remains a significant barrier that prevents individuals, families and communities from getting help.

Minister of Health and Social Services Pauline Frost

Given the number of deaths in only seven months and the continued efforts we have undertaken to caution people, we have reached another level of crisis. We have to think differently about how we meet the needs of this segment of our population to keep them safe and to keep those at risk alive.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley

This recent spike in opioid related deaths is seen as a tragedy by Yukon Coroner’s Service. Each death represents deeply rooted networks within our communities and the impact has been massive. We must move forward with renewed compassion and face this as the crisis it has become.

Yukon Chief Coroner Heather Jones

The foremost objective of Yukon RCMP is to keep Yukoners safe, particularly our most vulnerable population. While enforcement is a key component in keeping our community safe from drug traffickers, it can only go so far. This is a bigger issue beyond simple law enforcement that requires a community approach that also includes prevention, education and harm reduction.

Yukon RCMP Commanding Officer, Chief Superintendent Scott Sheppard 

Quick facts 
  • Opioid Treatment Services at the Referred Care Clinic located on 210 Elliot Street, does not require a referral; anyone can access these services, which include strong social supports. Opioid Overdose Prevention can be reached at 867-332-0722.

  • Blood Ties located on 405 Ogilvie Street, offers harm reduction services, including: fentanyl testing, safer crack kits and injection equipment, safer meth kits and safer snorting kits. Services are available in Whitehorse Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Fentanyl testing is available on the outreach van Monday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will meet people anywhere within Whitehorse city limits. Call 867-334-1647 if you have questions or to confirm location.  Outreach services can deliver harm reduction supplies to clients’ homes.

  • Testing for benzodiazepines will soon be available through Blood Ties at all of their drug checking sites.

  • Increased harm reduction and Naloxone training throughout the territory is being delivered by the Opioid Overdose Prevention Coordinator from Mental Wellness and Substance Use (MWSU) and Blood Ties Four Directions.Training will take place in Watson Lake week of August 3, 2020, with four days of training for EMS physicians, RCMP and firefighters.

  • Yukoners are can access mental health and wellness support during COVID-19 for support.  

Contact 

Matthew Cameron
Cabinet Communications
867-393-7136
matthew.cameron@gov.yk.ca

Pat Living
Communications, Health and Social Services
867-335-1531
patricia.living@gov.yk.ca

News release #: 
20-213