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HomeHealth and LifestyleLittle Girl Lost-The face of the opioid crisis in Kawartha Lakes

Little Girl Lost-The face of the opioid crisis in Kawartha Lakes

KAWARTHA LAKES-22 year old Destiny Miller had a rough childhood. She lived on the streets in Kitchener and was bounced around from foster home to foster home for years before becoming a Crown Ward according to her mom. “That child was fierce, she fought so courageously in spite of her traumatic childhood.” her adoptive mother Manina Murphy told Kawartha 411 News.

Murphy believes it was Destiny’s childhood that lead to her drug addiction. Murphy, who lives in Bobcaygeon, took Destiny in when she was 17 years old. She did not technically adopt her but both of them thought of her as a mother.  A mother who already had some experience with a child who was addicted to drugs and she wanted to give Destiny a safe place to call home. Murphy’s daughter Samantha met Destiny in rehab. They became close friends and Destiny became part of the family, a family she had never really had before.

The two girls came from vastly different backgrounds. “Destiny was first an IV drug user and she did crystal meth and that’s what she grew up with, there was a lot of childhood trauma.” Murphy explained. “Samantha, she had a great childhood, not that we were wealthy but we did ok and the kids were in activites, we did family vacations. This can happen to anyone.”

Murhpy says it was up and down with Destiny for years “She would have clean stretches, she’d go back to using again. But recently she had been, everybody you talked to that had been in her life or encountered her one way or another, they would tell you she was doing well.” explained Murphy.

In fact Murphy says Destiny was on the waiting list for government funded rehab for six months and had been clean since Christmas.

That all changed in March. “She had broken contact with one fella in particular and this guy kind of showed up on the scene again and blew up her phone.” Murphy says, “he had a variety of products he wanted to sell her. He himself is an addict. She was trying not to engage but she made some bad choices and got together with him and got high.”

It’s the perfect storm. A long time user is clean for a while and then relapses. Their body has lost it’s tolerance to the high doses of drugs. On March 28th Kawartha Lakes Police Service responded to Destiny’s apartment in Lindsay but she could not be saved.

“We believe she overdosed on purple heroin, the toxicology isn’t back yet but that’s what we believe.” Murphy says, her voice quivering with emotion. “She had so much to overcome and yet she kept fighting. It’s absolutely heart wrenching.”

Purple heroin is heroin mixed with the opioid fentanyl or carfentanil. Opioids are a strong pain medications that are usually prescribed for late stage cancer patients and severe pain.

More than 10,300 Canadians died as a result of opioid-related drug overdoses between January 2016 and September 2018 according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The number of people in Kawartha Lakes region who died from an opioid overdose jumped 5 fold in the first six months of 2018 according to statistics available from the Coroners Office.

From January 2018 to June 2018, 11 people died (confirmed and probable)of an opioid overdose in the City of Kawartha Lakes/Haliburton/Northumberland cachement area. That’s up sharply from only 2 deaths in the first six months of 2017 and more than the entire year.

“The presence of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues in the illicit drug supply has been increasing, and this has been attributed to an increase in unintentional overdoses and deaths. And this poisoning crisis shows no signs of slowing down.” Megan Deyman, Coordinator – Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland Drug Strategy told Kawartha 411 News in January.

Opioids deaths in Peterborough also surged in the first six months of 2018. (January to June) In the first half of 2018 there were 15 reported deaths from opioids while the same time in 2017 there were only 5 deaths.

Read the full story here:https://www.kawartha411.ca/2019/01/23/opioid-deaths-skyrocket-in-kawartha-lakes-and-peterborough/

The upward trend is continuing with another eight deaths in the region in July, August, September. Those are the most recent stats available and it’s double the provincial average per 100,000 people.

Kawartha Lakes Police are investigating Destiny’s death according to Murphy.

“We came across some information that I brought to the police. The dealers need to be held accountable” Murphy told Kawartha 411. “Burden of proof is pretty heavy so realistically whether anything can happen in terms of him being held accountable, who knows.”

One way or another Murphy says she will make sure Destiny did not die in vain. “I am so broken , but… I am very determined to not let her be another statistic. I am not going to be quiet.”

She wants to see a dramatic change to how Police and the courts deal with the dealers. “This is a pandemic this isn’t just a crisis. The penalty for trafficking this stuff needs to be harsh.”

Police in North Bay charged a suspected dealer with manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death last July following an overdose related death of a 54-year-old woman.

But experts say making the case is tough.

“There’s a causation issue that has to be addressed.” North Bay Crown Attorney Russell Wood told CTV news at the time.

“There must be evidence of a criminal offence to have taken place in order for the police service to pursue a charge.  Each unexpected death that occurs in our community is investigated fully by the police service, in partnership with the coroners office.” KLPS Sgt. Dave Murtha told Kawartha 411 News. “If there is evidence to support that a person contributed to another person’s death, then a criminal charge will be pursued.”

Both Destiny and Samantha were on MMT or Methadone Maintenance Treatment. Samantha used Methadone while Destiny was put on a similar treatment called Suboxone. Both relieve opioid withdrawal symptoms, and reduce drug cravings. They are also opioids but have a slow onset so they don’t cause euphoria or intoxication when taken properly.

The number of people on methadone in Ontario has skyrocketed in the last few years going from 3,000 in 1996 to more than 40,000 in 2016.

For-profit methadone clinics have sprung up everywhere including in Kawartha Lakes with the Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre on Lindsay Street.

Murphy says private companies making money off of drug addiction is dangerous and wrong. “It’s such bullshit. It’s shameful, people making money off of it and the government is subsidizing it.”

A study released in July 2017 found 57 Ontario doctors — billed an average of $648,352 each in 2014, for Methadone treatments. And much of that is being paid for by the taxpayers. According to the study each Doctor had an average of 435 methadone patients with public drug coverage. Each billed for an average of 71 patients a day on methadone with patients returning every four or five days to provide a urine sample.

These private companies are so profitable that an American firm bought out Canada’s largest chain of methadone clinics. BayMark Health Services purchased Canadian Addiction Treatment Centres 72 opioid-treatment clinics, 19 pharmacies and one residential addiction-treatment centre, all of them in Ontario, last March.

“We are doing a really lousy job of treating addiction.” says Murphy. “Maybe if addictions were reclassified in the medical field because we know it’s a disease but its not being treated that way.”

Murhpy says the current programs being used to treat adddictions are not based on sound evidence. “What a waste of time, energy, resources, money that agencies have to go through is mind boggling. The money that’s being spent to cover a 21 day program, covered by the Ministry, people are going into these short term programs, coming out and then there’s nothing to support them.”

Samantha has been clean and in recovery for four years. Murphy feels mental illness triggered Samantha’s addiction and is worried about the affect the loss of Destiny will have on her.

“I’m scared for her right now, she’s devastated which terrifies me.”

Murphy wants people to know the stereotypical picture of an addict is not the reality. “People need to wake up, this isn’t some despicable human being in an alley, that’s not the addict, there’s no descrimination, it could happen to anyone.”

 

 

 

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Pamela Vanmeer
Pamela Vanmeerhttps://www.kawartha411.ca/
Pamela VanMeer is a two time winner of the prestigious Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Award. Her investigative reports on abuse in Long Term Care Homes garnered international attention for the issue and won the Ron Laidlaw Award. She is a former reporter and anchor at CHEX News, now Global Peterborough and helped launch the New CHEX Daily, a daily half hour talk show. While at CHCH News in Hamilton she covered some of the biggest news stories of the day.

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