Pubdate: Thu, 31 Aug 2017
Source: Kingston Whig-Standard (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Sun Media
Author: Ian MacAlpine
Page: A2


Local agencies supporting those suffering from the opioid crisis used
International Overdose Day on Thursday as an opportunity to bring
attention to the issue.

The opioid crisis is no longer an issue just for large cities. The
Kingston area, as well as some villages north of the city, have
overdose numbers that are aso concerning.

For example, Overdose Day was marked in Sharbot Lake as well as

On Thursday morning, the Kingston Community Health Centres' Street
Health Centre held a news conference to mark the occasion.

The event featured seven speakers from Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox
and Addington Public Health, the Street Health Clinic, a local
pharmacist, a representative from the Ontario Provincial Police and a
Kingston mother of a victim of an overdose.

Approximately 15 people, along with local media, attended the

The day is important for many reasons, said Rhonda Lovell, a public
health nurse and MC of the conference.

"It aims to raise awareness of drug overdose and reduce the stigma of
drug-related death and injuries."

Silver balloons to mark those who have died from drug overdoses were
set up around the conference room as well as outside the centre on
Barrack Street and around the downtown area. A much smaller number of
purple balloons were also on display to signify people who have been
saved from overdoses.

The day also sends a message, Lovell said. "The infinite value of each
human being nullifies presumption, stigma, prejudice towards people
who use drugs or have died or sustained permanent injury from drug

Lovell said it's a time to remember and honour the lives that have
been lost in our communities.

The day also hit home for Sue Deuchars of Kingston, who lost her
24-year-old son, Devon, from a drug overdose in 2016.

"His overdose was preventable," she said at the conference. "In my
experience, the stigma and marginalization of people who use
substances is huge."

She said her son struggled with drug abuse for 12 years and said
compassion should be the No. 1 support for people like her son.

"It's really important for people to open their minds and their hearts
and to lose the stigma surrounding addiction and to develop
compassion," Deuchars said.

"We can have naloxone as a tool, we can have safe injection sites,
which are all wonderful and needed, but I feel [members of ] the
public who don't have personal experience with substance use or have
loved ones I think it's really important for people to step out of
their frames of reference," she said. "Addiction comes in many forms.

"This epidemic isn't going away anytime soon. It's a controversial
issue, but I feel really strongly that this country needs to
decriminalize, legalize and regulate all drugs."

She said that rather than incarcerate drug users, the government
should use the money for treatment for addiction, for mental health
for ongoing recovery programs and improving wait times for those who
want and need help.

"My son kept trying to recover and was met with sometimes months of
wait times from detox to treatment."

Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer of health for Kingston, Frontenac
and Lennox and Addington Public Health, said the number of fatal
overdoses in Ontario continues to rise and is a pressing public health

In 2016, Moore said, more than 800 Ontarians died of drug

"That's a 19 per cent increase over the previous year," he

He said the opioid epidemic began 15 years ago and shows no signs of
slowing down.

"We have lots of work to do to prevent further overdoses," he

Moore said drug users should be taking precautionary measures, such as
having a naloxone kit with them while taking drugs and having a
partner with them who could call 911 in case an overdose occurs.

Tina Knorr, an outreach worker with the Street Health Centre, said
that since September 2015 when the centre started the Opioid Overdose
Prevention program, 1,032 naloxone kits have been dispensed, 140
people have reported back to the centre that they used naloxone, with
56 of those calling 911 for further treatment.

Moore said anyone who overdoses and takes naloxone must go to the
hospital because the life-saving drug only temporarily stops the
effects of an opioid overdose.

This year, Knorr said 437 kits have been dispensed from the centre,
with 91 people reporting overdoses where naloxone was involved.

In August of this year alone, 72 naloxone kits were distributed.

Those statistics don't reflect naloxone kits given out by local

Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist Krina Vaghela said all of their local
pharmacies, as well as their competitors', have naloxone kits to
distribute free of charge and without a prescription.

Insp. Pat Finnegan of the Napanee Ontario Provincial Police said that
officers in Ontario soon will have the kits in their vehicles and
encourage anyone who helps an overdosed person to call 911. The
Ontario Good Samaritan law protects people from prosecution if they
call 911 for a drug overdose.

When the conference concluded, a moment of silence took place to
remember those who have died from drug overdoses.

After the conference, Deuchars told reporters it was important to tell
the story about her son, "and to learn as much as I possibly could and
pass the wisdom to everyone else."

She said Devon's death profoundly affected her and her other son and

"Our lives will never be the same," she said. "It's with me every
single day and I keep waiting for it to get easier and it doesn't."

But Deuchars wants her loss to help others.

"I want to use it as a catalyst to spread compassion and to spread the
word that stigma kills, and that keeps me waking up every day," she

"My son didn't have to die, and all the people who have died in this
community didn't have to die. Overdoses are entirely preventable."
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