Pubdate: Thu, 27 Jul 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Ray Martin
Page: B1



CAMBRIDGE - Cambridge coroner Dr. Hank Nykamp is tired of political
rhetoric and inaction as the local fentanyl crisis deepens.

The longtime city doctor has been a Cambridge coroner since 1985. He
has seen the best and worst of the city during his career. He loves
this city, but believes more must be done to stem the growing number
of opioid overdose cases crossing his examination table.

"Five years ago it was oxycodone. Now it's fentanyl and carfentanil,
which is even more powerful and used to knock out elephants," he said.
"Something needs to be done and we can't wait on the

During the past year, Nykamp said the number of drug over-dose-related
deaths in Cambridge has doubled.

"Cambridge is becoming the drug capital of Ontario, with its drug
houses and crystal meth factories," Nykamp said.

Cambridge's coroners have seen three drug overdose deaths in a single
month this year.

"The Ontario coroner's office is reporting 390 suspected overdose
deaths this year. They're still waiting for toxicology reports to come
in to confirm it," he said.

In March, three Cambridge men almost died from drugs suspected to be
laced with fentanyl at a home on Elgin Street North. They became
unconscious after taking the drugs, but were found by friends, who
administered first aid and the opioid antidote naloxone, and then called 

Police, crime prevention and health officials are teaming up to
educate the public about the dangers of fentanyl and how to access and
administer the live-saving antidote, giving more time for help to arrive.

Unfortunately, that message sometimes comes too late.

"The worst thing is having a grieving parent ask you, 'What are you
going to do about this?'" Nykamp said.

For Nykamp, the fentanyl crisis is literally at his doorstep. He said
his female neighbours in downtown Galt are afraid to venture out after
dark, and discarded syringes can be found everywhere in his

"I've had people tell me that as soon as their kids are out of high
school, they are moving out of Cambridge," he said.

While Nykamp supports The Bridges, Cambridge's homeless shelter, and
has been involved in raising funds for the organization, he believes
it is also part of the problem.

"They (The Bridges) have done a lot of good, but they are
overburdened. It's the place that a lot of people from outside the
city are coming to. They can get food, shelter and all the drugs in
the world," he said.

It has long been rumoured other communities are busing their homeless
here because of the generosity of people in Waterloo Region and The

In a recent report to Cambridge council, officials from The Bridges
stated homeless people from outside Waterloo Region can't stay
indefinitely. They are accommodated for three nights and then given
assistance, when possible, to return to their home community.
Although, The Bridges has zero tolerance for drugs, the wooded hill
surrounding the shelter is often littered with drug paraphernalia, as
are area parking lots, trails and parks.

Some of those drugs are thought to have been purchased by those
passing across Nykamp's examination table.

Nykamp is now looking at possible solutions to the growing fentanyl
crisis. He readily admits, "I don't have all the answers," however,
he's looked at the research being done in Europe and Vancouver.

"People might not like it, but one of the things we are going to have
to look at is injection sites," he said.

Nykamp said establishing an injection site in Cambridge might draw
addicts from other parts of the region, so sites would also have to be
established in Waterloo and Kitchener.

He has also looked at research on two very different types of
injection site. The first would be a facility, potentially set up in
an industrial area, where people could go to inject their drugs and be
monitored by a nurse for 30 minutes before leaving.

The second type of injection site is much more controversial. In this
case, drug users are provided with heroin for injection.

"The research shows there are advantages to this type of site," Nykamp
said. "The drugs are regulated. It decreases crime, it suppresses the
dealers and the resources are there to provide help and

In addition to injection sites, Nykamp said Cambridge needs similar
services to those available in Kitchener for counselling and care for
those wanting to get clean.

With Waterloo Region distributing 500,000 clean needles annually,
Nykamp believes more needs to be done to safely deal with the
aftermath of their use.

The further distribution of "sharps" containers alone is not going the
fix the problem, according to Nykamp who has heard anecdotally that
needles have been found in nearby nursery school playgrounds,
restaurant flower beds and along the riverbanks.

"If the city wants to put its focus on the river, it has a lot of work
to do," he said. "It should start by clearing away the brush and
undergrowth so people can see what's going on."

In addition to dealing with the drug issue, more needs to be done to
take people off the street, Nykamp said.

"One of the things we need is more affordable housing," he

Nykamp has already been speaking with city and region officials, and
well as staff at different health and social service agencies, about
the fentanyl crisis and the impacts it's having on the community.

"What we need is a grassroots organization to start dealing with
this," he said. "We can reverse this by working together."
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