Pubdate: Fri, 15 Aug 2014
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Molly Hayes
Page: A1


City officials looking for samples, while handing out free emergency
antidote kits to avoid more deaths

Hamilton police say they've not yet seized samples of a lethal grade
of heroin being sold across the city.

"We don't at this point, and that is part of the problem," Deputy
Police Chief Eric Girt said at a media briefing Thursday about a
recent spike in suspected heroin deaths. "It could be all kinds of
combinations of drugs. One of the things that has recently emerged is
Fentanyl, which has a high potency =C2=85 but it could be anything -
cocaine, crack. We do know, historically, dealers have used things
like rat poison, baking soda =C2=85 they're not particularly interested i
quality control."

He could not give a number of overdoses or deaths suspected to be
linked to the drugs.

Police issued a public warning July 31, warning opioid users to be
wary of the potentially lethal drug.

At least three people have died from heroin overdoses since then, the
family of 23-year-old Pauline Bearfoot, who died last Friday, says
they were told.

Another victim, Alicia Upham, 27, died three days before

As police continue to investigate what it is and who's selling it, the
city's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said
public health is focusing on getting free antidote kits in the hands
of drug users across the city. About 50 kits have been handed out
since city officials launched the Hamilton Overdose Prevention and
Education (HOPE) program in May.

The kits include opioid antidote Naloxone (narcan), which when used
right away can reverse the effects of an overdose long enough to get a
user proper medical help.

Lloyd Bryer says he has been advocating for narcan for years. An
addict himself, Bryer says he's been clean almost 20 years, but knows
how crucial they are to saving lives.

"I could probably give away 10 today," he said in a phone interview
from the Wesley Centre - just blocks from the Barton Street East
memorial set up for Bearfoot, who died of a possible heroin overdose.

Debbie Bang, a manager of the addiction service program at St.
Joseph's Healthcare, agrees more kits need to be dispersed.

And while she praises Public Health for launching the program, she
wonders whether there are other ways to get narcan out to those who
need it.

"We need to make it as easy as possible to get it. Public Health is
doing a great job of doing that, but still we're talking about people
who don't trust the system, who have reasons not to trust the
professionals," she says.

Bang stresses that the recent spike of overdoses could be caused by
any number of factors: "There's a constant market for enhancing what's
available," she said.

It was paramedics who sounded the alarm that a lethal grade of heroin
seemed to be circulating on Hamilton streets, after receiving six
potential overdose calls in three hours one shift last month.

"I would hope that people would be worried right now, people who are
actively using. What we always forget, though, is with a heroin
addiction the withdrawal is so incredibly awful that people are trying
desperately to get something to take the edge off," Bang said.

Overdose prevention kits are free from the city, distributed by Public
Health nurses and can be delivered. To get one, call Public Health at

Police are also asking anyone who believes they're in possession of
the heroin to contact police so it can be tested.

"While we understand people may be apprehensive =C2=85 we ask that in the

interest of determining the composition that they be turned into
police at the police station, or we can pick them up," Girt says.

Anyone with information is asked to call the vice and drug branch at
905-546-3883 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
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