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Fentanyl overdoses suspected in recent deaths of two Orangeville men

March 15, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

The community’s seemingly non-stop battle with addiction issues took another turn for the worst this week after the Orangeville Police Service (OPS) confirmed two local men have died as a result of suspected fentanyl overdoses. 

On March 7, 19-year-old Mason Corrie passed away and four days later 20-year-old Bryan White died. OPS Cst. Scott Davis confirmed, in both cases, that evidence suggests the pair ingested counterfeit Xanax pills laced with fentanyl.

The local force put out a safety alert on Monday, cautioning residents about an apparent trend whereby currently unknown individuals, potentially residing in our community, are repurposing Xanax, a prescribed medication used to treat various anxiety disorders, by crushing it and adding an unknown quantity of another drug, thought to be fentanyl. 

The recent deaths are just two in a growing list of deaths related to drug, specifically opioid, overdoses in Dufferin County over the past two years.

“These deaths should serve as a warning to anyone who is tempted to buy prescription medication from street dealers,” said OPS Chief Wayne Kalinski. “The only way to protect yourself and your loved ones, against unknowingly consuming these deadly products, is to steer clear of street drugs altogether.”

Back in 2017, OPS, along with Dufferin EMS and a local addictions councillor attempted to educate the community about the dangers opioid-laced drug products pose. The team held presentations at Westside Secondary School and Orangeville District Secondary School, where they implored high school students to stay away from street drugs. An evening presentation was also organized so as to educate parents about some of the issues, although Cst. Davis noted it wasn’t very well attended.

While he’s not sure the issue has worsened over the past 24 months, Cst. Davis says it certainly hasn’t gotten any better. 

“I don’t know that this is an issue that is increasing or decreasing. What we do know is we have had two deaths in the past four days, and numerous other deaths (in recent years),” Cst. Davis said.

A recent report released by Health Canada stated that, in the first half of 2018, 2,066 apparent opioid-related deaths occurred across the country, 638 of them here in Ontario. That means between Jan. 2016 and June 2018, more than 9,000 lives were lost in incidents related to opioids. With reports for the full year of 2018 not yet available, the report notes an average of 17 people were hospitalized for opioid poisonings in Canada each day in 2017. 

Speaking to the Citizen, Dufferin EMS Chief Tom Reid noted that issues stemming from drug and alcohol use were issues local emergency service providers are dealing with on a near daily basis. 

“What I have noticed, and what our numbers continue to support is the issue continues to be present,” Mr. Reid said. “Almost on a daily basis, we deal with members of our community who are having drug or alcohol issues. That’s the message we need to get out there.”

While the public education campaign EMS and OPS participated in in Orangeville was largely stopped in its tracks due to poor turnout and lack of support at the school board level, Mr. Reid confirmed EMS has continued to press home the issues during a focused campaign in Shelburne, and other areas of Dufferin County. As well, the organization last year hosted a Drug Awareness Day on Aug. 31, bringing in several speakers to talk about the risk of street or illicit drugs. That event will return on the same date in 2019, Mr. Reid confirmed.

While he’s pleased with the impact made thus far, Mr. Reid indicated this was an issue that would continue until the community as a whole came together to educate friends and families about the dangers of using illegal drugs.

 “I’m not sure all of our community appreciates the problem we’re having. This isn’t just affecting a certain demographic, this doesn’t just concern some type of street-drug users, this type of illicit drug activity, we’re seeing across a wide continuum of our community,” Mr. Reid said.

While opioids specifically have hit the headlines due to the immediate nature in which they can kill their victims, Mr. Reid expressed his concern over a wide spectrum of drug use in Dufferin County.

“As much as opioids have been a focus, they have been a focus because they can kill people almost instantaneously, whereas some of the other drugs we’re seeing being used end up being fatal over a period of time,” Mr. Reid said. “But that’s just as concerning and causing just as many health issues and concerns for the community.”

While up-to-date statistics for Dufferin County were not available as of press time, a report from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health stated there were 27 recorded opioid overdoses in Dufferin County in 2017, with two of those resulting in deaths. While, on the face of it, those statistics may not appear particularly pressing, the reality, Mr. Reid states, paints a different picture.

“The numbers, to me, don’t tell the whole story. The story is, from my perspective, that, as much as people may or may not want to know, that, in a rural, very beautiful community, that we do have a drug and alcohol problem,” Mr. Reid said. “It’s affecting our hospital and our emergency services on a daily basis. That’s the statistic people need to hear.”

Looking back on the two recent deaths, Cst. Davis admitted that while they were both tragic, they could have been avoided.

“It’s our belief, through witnesses, that both of these young men knew exactly what they were taking. We need the public to be aware of these type of drugs and the dangers they present,” Cst. Davis said. “I think parents need to be more aware of what their kids are doing, where they’re doing it and who they’re doing it with. Again, it’s important that we educate kids as to what the consequences of their actions could possibly be.”

He added, “I’m not suggesting that this is the parents’ fault, but I think it takes all the resources we have, it takes a collaboration of resources to try and help these types of problems. It’s not something the police can address themselves and it’s not one parents can tackle on their own. It’s going to take all of us working together.”

While the previous community awareness campaign largely fell flat, Cst. Davis indicated he would be happy to resurrect it if there was an appropriate level of support.



         

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