Pubdate: Fri, 28 Jul 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Liz Monteiro
Page: A1


Cambridge mayor says group will offer solutions, but will take 'whole
community to solve this problem'

CAMBRIDGE - Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig says he's creating a city task
force to find solutions to the fentanyl crisis plaguing his city.

The city initiative has been in the works for three months, said
Craig, and is not a "knee-jerk" reaction to recent comments made by
Cambridge coroner Dr. Hank Nykamp.

Nykamp, a coroner since 1985, said Cambridge is becoming the drug
capital of Ontario with "drug houses" and "crystal meth factories."

He said politicians and local agencies need to step up to combat the
problem together.

Nykamp said the Bridges Shelter in downtown Galt is overburdened and
although drugs are not allowed there, syringes and needles are often
found nearby.

The coroner suggested solutions could involve safe-injection sites,
increased counselling services and more affordable housing.

Craig said he and his council proposed the idea of a task force after
meeting with Galt-area businesses and food bank representatives. "We
heard about the issues they were dealing with, the needles in the
streets and more people sleeping outside in parks," he said.

"It's mushroomed in the last little while," Craig said.

Pat Singleton, executive director of the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank
on Ainslie Street, said it's now common to see people she has never
met before coming to get food.

"There are people in their late teens, early 20s, and we barely
recognize them. They are often high on something and we don't even
know their names," she said.

Food bank employees occasionally find drug paraphernalia in piles of
clothes, Singleton said.

Craig said the task force, made up of police, social services, public
health and the chamber of commerce, will offer solutions and make
changes downtown. It is set to meet at the end of August.

"I'm not going to wallow in the negativity," the mayor said. "We will
be strong and find solutions."

Craig said the Bridges shelter is not to blame. "They are not part of
the problem. They are part of the solution," he said.

"This is a societal issue. It's complex," Craig said. "It will take a
whole community to solve this problem."

Craig maintains that the problem isn't solely in Cambridge either, but
in communities across the province.

"Cambridge is a safe city," he said.

Used as a prescription painkiller, fentanyl is a powerful drug that is
now found on the street. Its potency is 100 times that of morphine.

The dangers of bootleg fentanyl - an illicit, high-dose opioid being
added to a variety of substances, often without the user knowing - is
particularly concerning.

Drug dealers often mix fentanyl powder with other drugs, such as
heroin or cocaine.

Since January, 39 people have died of suspected drug overdoses in the
region, said Staff Sgt. Sloden Lackovic of Waterloo Regional Police.
Many of the overdoses are linked to fentanyl.

And the number of fentanyl seizures keeps skyrocketing,

>From January to July, 2016, police seized 682 grams. During the same
period this year it's more than doubled with 1,556 grams of fentanyl
seized. Lackovic said that number could go up in the last few days of

The crisis continues to mount as paramedics and police are being
called out to drug-related calls each day. There are about 75 calls a
month - about three a day.

When it comes to overdose calls, paramedics are seeing 35 to 40 calls
a month.

Statistics by the Waterloo Region Integrated Drugs Strategy shows that
from January to June 2016 there were 182 overdose calls. The same
period this year, the calls have jumped to 269.

"It would be wonderful to get people to stop doing drugs but I don't
know how reasonable that is," said Robert Crossan, deputy chief of the
Region of Waterloo Paramedic Services. "But if we can stop them from
dying, we can get them help."

Crossan said it's difficult to tell someone who has just overdosed to
wait four months for an appointment to get medical help.

"The desire to get off the drug is replaced with the desire of the
addiction," he said. "We have to get them before the memory fades
(that) 'I almost died today.'''
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