Warning issued following increase in opioid-related deaths in the Yukon
The Yukon’s Chief Coroner Heather Jones has confirmed four deaths due to illicit drugs in the first seven days of January 2022. Three of these deaths are the result of fentanyl. Further, the Yukon Coroner’s Service is investigating three more deaths occurring between January 15 and 19 that are suspected to be drug related. Toxicology results related to these three additional deaths are pending.
The extremely high number of drug-related deaths in the past several months is a catastrophic reminder of the dangers around illicit drug use in the Yukon. The presence of toxic street drugs is a public health and safety concern throughout the territory.
Together the Chief Coroner, the acting Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Minister of Health and Social Services and Justice are asking all Yukoners to be extremely careful. The drug supply in the Yukon is increasingly dangerous and the risks are exacerbated by benzodiazepines (“benzos”) being used in conjunction with opioids. These substances and their combinations are extremely dangerous and can be lethal.
Several key harm reduction services are available for those who are using drugs or need support with substance use.
- The National Overdose Response Service (NORS) at 1-888-688-6677 where a volunteer without judgment will stay on the line while you are using and make sure you are okay. This is a confidential service that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- The Yukon’s supervised consumption site provides a space for people to use substances under trained medical supervision. On site, clients can access a range of harm reduction and social services including drug testing, harm reduction counselling, access to naloxone, drug use equipment exchange, medical care from a trained professional, counselling treatment services and training in safer use practices. Clients can also receive referrals to social, medical and mental wellness and substance use supports.
- Treatment services are available at 867-668-2552 or at the Referred Care Clinic at 210 Elliott Street in Whitehorse.
- Yukoners who have questions on opioid, naloxone and training, as well as harm reduction information, can contact the Opioid Overdose Prevention Coordinator at the Referred Care Clinic by phone at 867-332-0722 or by email at [email protected].
- Yukoners who are interested in changing or managing their opioid drug use with the help of medical intervention, the opioid treatment services clinic can help call to book an appointment at 867-668-2552. The medical team at the Opioid Treatment Services Program can assess, prescribe and support clients who may benefit from a safer supply of opioids.
- Additional supports are available by contacting Mental Wellness and Substance Use at 867-456-3838 or at Withdrawal Management at 867-667-8473. Withdrawal Management is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- For anyone grieving a loss, support is available through Hospice Yukon at 867-667-7429 or at 409 Jarvis Street in Whitehorse.
- Rapid Access Counselling is available for people with mental wellness and substance use issues by calling 867-456-3838.
The continued loss of Yukoners to illicit drug use is devastating. These deaths are preventable. Please do not use alone. Access the services and supports available. Let it be known what further supports and resources are needed to change the reality of these on-going losses. And hold each other up with compassion, kindness and understanding. Our communities are suffering.
Chief Coroner Heather Jones
Our hearts are with the families and loved ones of those we have lost. Each of these deaths is tragic and preventable. There are toxic drugs in our communities and the risks of using have never been higher. We are urging people to be extremely careful, never use alone, keep naloxone on hand, and access harm reduction services that are available throughout the territory. We are facing a substance use health emergency in our territory and we need to support one another and work together to reduce drug-related harms in our communities.
Minister of Health and Social Service and Justice Tracy-Anne McPhee
My heartfelt sympathy goes out to the families, friends and community of every person whose life has ended too soon due to substance use or mental health challenges. The rise in drug-related deaths is cause for concern and we are taking this very seriously. Yukoners need to know that there is a toxic supply of drugs in the territory. So now more than ever, use with others, carry naloxone, and take advantage of the substance use and mental health programs that are available across the territory.
acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Catherine Elliott
Communications, Health and Social Services