Pubdate: Thu, 08 Mar 2018
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Liz Monteiro
Page: A1


John Lavergne believes a safe injection site will help save

KITCHENER - John Lavergne lost eight friends last year. All of them
died of an opioid overdose.

Six of them were in Waterloo Region. Three of them hadn't used in
months and had a relapse. They couldn't tell their partners, friends
or families they were using again.

They used alone and now they are dead, Lavergne said.

The Kitchener man says a supervised injection site would have helped
them live.

"An overdose death is always a preventable death," said Lavergne, 30,
who injected heroin for 15 years.

He's on methadone now and has been committed to the opioid as a way to
combat his heroin addiction.

Lavergne said many in the community fear supervised injection sites
and mobile units but the sites are necessary to save lives.

Locally, the region is looking at opening two permanent supervised
injections sites with one in central Kitchener and one in Galt.

A temporary mobile site is also being considered.

"Those who hold themselves to a higher standard need to do the right
thing," Lavergne said. "Let the community come on board later.

"There is no downside whatsoever," he said.

Lavergne said supervised injection sites will serve two groups of
people - those most at risk such as the homeless and those who relapse
after being off drugs for a while.

It gives them a place to use the drug safely with supervision as well
as inquire about issues that may be plaguing them, such as housing or
counselling, he said.

"They can trust someone and not be judged. That is key," Lavergne
said. "They might not ask on the first visit but maybe the next time."

Lavergne said the "shame and stigma" associated with using drugs is

"People don't choose to use fentanyl," he said.

Born and raised in New Hamburg, Lavergne started popping pills at 15.
He had depression and anxiety and wanted to feel good.

He moved on to opiates and in his 20s his full-blown habit had him
stealing cars to get cash. He worked various jobs, including in
restaurant kitchens, to earn money for his drugs.

"The fear of your bones turning to dust was more important than being
on time for work," said Lavergne, who dreaded the withdrawal symptoms
and was often late for work trying to buy more drugs.

He lived in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver before returning to the

"It takes something to go right," said Lavergne, explaining how he got
off heroin. "Things just went right for long enough for me."

Like many addicts, Lavergne was tired of feeling sick.

"You live on a clock. Every six hours you feel like you are going to

Lavergne said the notion of hitting rock bottom is

"The moment of clarity never comes. You need resources to move forward
and (supervised injection) sites make services available."
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MAP posted-by: Matt