DAVE GORDON

To address the opiate/Fentanyl crisis in our community, the fifth annual Drug Awareness Forum presented information, awareness, and strategies to overcome this mounting issue.

Headed by The Peel Harm Reduction Committee, the Nov. 16 event at the YMCA Centre in Mississauga featured three keynotes:

  • Tara Edeh, Community and Patient Relations Coordinator of Canadian Addiction Treatment Centres, spoke about opiates, naloxone, and overdose trends for Ontario.
  • Nick Boyce, Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, spoke about safe injection sites and his experience at Toronto’s pop-up overdose prevention site in Moss Park.
  • Kate Bingham, Associate Medical Officer of Health Peel Public Health, spoke on trends in Peel and the Regions response to the overdose crisis.

Organizers of the event say their aim is to galvanize the community to action, to promote advocacy, and interventions to reduce the severity of the drug overdose issue.

“I’ve lost twelve people since January that I know personally to accidental overdose,” said Adam Chalcraft, Chair of the Peel Harm Reduction Committee and Harm Reduction Coordinator with Peel HIV/AIDS Network.

“Had there been more measures in place those people might still be here. The sad thing is that things are likely to get worse before they get better… We want to highlight the overdose crisis ravaging the country in the past couple of years. We’ve seen a substantial growth in overdose in this region.”

Attendees learned more about safe injecting sites, overdose prevention, what the Region of Peel’s strategy and plan is for drug abuse, among other items.

“We hope to get more movement and conversation, on a larger level happening,” explained Chalcraft, who also produced the event.

“Our goal is to increase our capacity to deal with these issues. We need to start looking at a lot of different options, because this is an emergency and a crisis, and there are things we need to look at what we can do to find solutions. I hope that people came out of the event with a more compassionate view of those with drug problems.”

He added that most who are in a drug crisis use substances as a coping mechanism resultant from a life trauma. “It’s a health and social issue, not a criminal issue,” he maintained.

Safe injection sites or inventions aren’t going to solve the issue, but could prevent deaths, he added.

In downtown Brampton on Dec. 1 – World AIDS Day – a “mock injection site” is planned to be set up as an educational tool for the public, under the auspices of Peel HIV/AIDS Network, said Chalcraft. 

Experts in the field have noted a sharp rise in accidental overdose, particularly with opiods. According to Public Health Agency of Canada, some 2,500 people have died from opiod overdose last year, with the number expected to rise by 2017.

In Peel region, there were 23 recorded deaths due to opioid overdose in 2005. By 2015, the annual toll had risen to more than fifty. (These statistics do not include deaths that occurred as a result of non-opioid-related overdose.)