Pubdate: Thu, 11 May 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Liz Monteiro
Page: B1


WATERLOO REGION - Twenty-eight people have died of opioid-related
overdoses in Waterloo Region since January, say Waterloo Regional Police.

And the culprit is suspected to be fentanyl.

Police say they can't be certain, but they believe the deadly drug is
contributing to the number of calls police and paramedics are
responding to in the region.

The numbers are climbing fast. Last year, 15 to 20 people in total
died of overdoses because of fentanyl, said Staff Sgt. Slodan
Lackovic, head of drug branch.

In 2015, police said they had 12 seizures of fentanyl, six being in
patch form and the remaining six in powder.

Then last year, seizures jumped to 90 - 758 grams of

Lackovic said fentanyl is a priority for drug officers, but not just
when it comes to enforcement, but when educating people on the hazards
of the potent drug.

Lackovic said officers who are on the front line are also speaking to
organizations such as educators, church groups and social service
agencies about what to watch for and how to get help, such as the
naloxone kits.

The life-saving drug, naloxone, is an antidote to fentanyl.

Used as a prescription painkiller, fentanyl is a highly powerful drug
that is now found on the streets and its potency is 100 times that of

Bootleg fentanyl is produced in illicit labs in China, packaged in
foil and easily purchased online. Drug dealers often mix fentanyl
powder with other drugs, such as heroin or cocaine.

"Fentanyl is a complex issue. It's going to take all partners to
tackle this issue," said Lackovic, who regularly meets with the
Waterloo Region Integrated Drugs Strategy group, public health and
paramedic services to talk about the local growing drug problem.

Lackovic said a mindshift is needed. Users are victims and the
dependency is comparable to a physical illness.

Michael Parkinson, of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council,
has been signalling the dire consequences of opioids and how numbers
are surpassing deaths on Ontario's roadways.

In 2015 there was one death every 12 hours in Ontario of
opioid-related overdoses, he said.

Last year there were 922 overdose deaths in British Columbia, 25 per
cent of them in Vancouver.

Parkinson wants to see a more concerted effort in Ontario to stop what
is often termed the "tidal wave" by police when referring to the
fentanyl crisis.

But there are some glimmers of hope.

Last December, the federal government introduced bill C-37 to make it
easier to open drug injection sites. The bill also makes it more
difficult to import bootleg fentanyl into Canada, partly by allowing
customs agents to open couriered or mailed packages of less than 30

Last week, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, a private member's
bill, was passed. The new law would provide immunity from simple
possession charges for those who call 911 in the case of an overdose.
Also, someone on probation with court-ordered instructions not to be
around drugs will not be penalized for reporting an overdose.

Some of the law's suggestions came from research done by the Waterloo
Region Crime Prevention Council.

Lindsay Sprague, coordinator of the Waterloo Region Integrated Drugs
Strategy, said the Overdose Monitoring, Alert and Response System
(OMARS) will release a report within the next month looking at the
number of overdoses locally and the distribution of naloxone.

In January, the group put a survey online to monitor overdoses. So far
about three people a week have completed the survey. It can be found

Sprague said wallet-size cards in naloxone kits also point to the
survey. On the integrated drug strategy website, there are links for
parents on the dangers of opioids.

Sprague said work continues on opening two "rapid access" centres for
those addicted to drugs in Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo.

Addicts - whether using prescription drugs or those sold on the street
- - will be able to see a doctor and access an addiction counsellor at
the centres, she said.

In Ontario, there are seven similar centres where any substance user
can get help without waiting weeks to receive treatment to help with
an abuse problem.
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MAP posted-by: Matt