Pubdate: Thu, 05 Oct 2017
Source: Grimsby Lincoln News, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Grimsby Lincoln News


They're still dealing with crushing grief barely contained, but a
group of Niagara mothers who lost children in the prime of their lives
to overdoses from opioids delivered a powerful message to regional
politicians last week on the desperate need to deal with the opioid
crisis sweeping like a freight train across the country.

The powerful drugs such as fentanyl have left a trail of destruction
starting on the West Coast and moving east, with soaring numbers of
emergency rooms visits due to overdoses in Ontario now.

Most people are very aware of the dangers of heroin, an opiate derived
from the opium poppy. But many people falsely believe that if a
painkiller is prescribed by a doctor, it must be benign.

In fact, synthetics such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and the extremely
potent fentanyl can be extremely addictive - and deadly. Fentanyl can
be upward of 50 to 100 times more deadly than heroin.

The five mothers who appeared before the region's public health and
community services committee - Ann Minors, Sandi Walker Tantardini,
Wilma Thompson, Judith Rossman and Jennifer Johnston - know all too
well the dangers.

Johnston, of St. Catharines, said her son Jonathan was in Toronto
where he was working on becoming a world-class chef when he took what
he thought was a safe dose of heroin in April of last year. He didn't
know it was in fact 99 per cent fentanyl: she said he collapsed on a
dirty sidewalk, and was gone forever.

The mothers are pushing decision makers to take swift action on the
crisis, pleading for initiatives such as a safe injection site in
Niagara - a step that can be controversial and requires provincial
approval - combating the stigma attached to drug addiction, and rapid
treatment plans immediately upon request for substance users when they
issue a call for help.

Regional politicians were clearly moved by the searing stories of
grief and loss the mothers told. They backed a call by Niagara Falls
Mayor Jim Diodati to have public health consult with agencies in
Western Canada that have more experience with the opioid crisis, and
to take the lead on a co-ordinated strategy on prevention and
education with partners such as Niagara Regional Police, Niagara
Emergency Medical Services, the school boards, mental health
organizations, Niagara Health, Hamilton Health Sciences and the
mothers' opioid group.

The region is already a member of Niagara's opioid network, a
partnership of about 20 partner agencies set up a little over a year
ago to prepare for the opioid crisis.

But regional medical officer of health Dr. Valerie Jaeger stressed
even having representatives from a cross-section of 20 agencies won't
be a cure-all. Combating opioids will require huge buy in and
"tentacles" across society to even start tackling it, she said.

No doubt, that is true. But by sharing their personal stories, the
Niagara mothers have helped to ignite a new urgency to fight this
deadly menace before more teens and young adults are lost.
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