KAWARTHA LAKES-The number of drug overdoses in the Lindsay area has increased dramatically over the last year.
In 2019 there were 93 suspected drug overdoses reported in the area patrolled by Kawartha Lakes Police Service (KLPS). In 2020 there has already been 88 suspected drug overdoses reported and there is still four and a half months to go before the end of the year.
“One overdose is still one overdose too many.” Sergeant Dave Murtha told kawartha 411 News. “That is why we are working so hard with our community partners in addiction, mental health and housing to address the issues of addiction, in addition to our traditional law enforcement efforts to combat drug trafficking.”
Police aren’t the only ones who are concerned. Jesse Kalabic/Kalosza says he’s lost at least 30 friends to drug overdoses.
“It’s alarming how quickly it’s getting worse and worse and I am seeing the impact in our community.” Kalosza says.
Kalosza is a local tattoo artist. He says that’s given him a unique perspective on the issue.
“One of the unique opportunities I have as a tattoo artist is I meet people from all walks of life. I tattoo doctors, lawyers, criminals, people who are down on their luck and these drugs don’t discriminate.” he says.
That prompted him to start a Facebook group called “My Life Mattered” to shed a light on the “people” behind the numbers and look for solutions.
“I know 30 people in our small town who have died froma Fentanyl overdose, if that’s not a public health crisis I don’t know what is.” Kalosza says. “These people all have someone who cared for them deeply and are just that; people.They should be viewed as such and not just another statistic. This disease is running rampant in our town and being swept under the rug.”
The page features photos of people who have died from overdoses and new faces are being added every day. In just a few days the’ve gained over 1100 followers. Find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/My-Life-Mattered-114297560282656/
Of the 93 overdoses in Lindsay in 2019, police say 9 people died. So far in 2020, 6 people have passed away from a suspected overdose.
Police say Fentanyl, and heroin are the predominant drugs involved, but there have also been some overdoses attributed to cocaine use. According to Sergeant Dave Murtha most controlled substances such as heroin or cocaine are imported into the country through large urban centres with an airport, such as Toronto, Peel Region, etc. He says that is typically the entry point for drugs into Canada, which are then distributed to other parts of the country and province.
“It makes sense that these drugs first fall into the hands of residents of those large urban centres, before being transported to other communities. But in some cases, residents from Lindsay are travelling to the GTA in order to purchase large amounts of drugs to sell locally. Many other controlled substances such as Fentanyl or prescription medications may originate from sources in this community, as they can be prescribed to local citizens and then stolen or re-sold.” Murtha explains.
Kalosza says he hopes to be able to find some answers as to why this is happening in our community.
“The more I look into it the more questions I have. I feel if I ask the right questions we could get some answers. If you look at the demographics and stats, I find it strange it’s so rampant in our small community.”
In addition to traditional law enforcement, the Kawartha Lakes Police Service says officers work closely with local community partners to address the use of drugs in our community.
“We have a partnership with Fourcast in which an officer and an addictions counsellor work together to try and locate, and speak with each person who has overdosed, in order to get them connected to addiction counselling, to distribute Naloxone kits and just to check their wellbeing.” Murtha says, “KLPS also works closely with Ross Memorial Hospital to address issues that lead to, or compound addiction, such as mental health and homelessness.”
Fourcast provides individual and group counselling for people struggling with alcohol, drug, or gambling related problems.
“Our goal is to support our clients by empowering them to make their own choices in an open, non-judgmental atmosphere. Our focus is on encouraging positive change.” the group says on it’s website.
Read more here:http://www.fourcast.ca
Police started carrying Naloxone this year. Naloxone is an “opioid antagonist” used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose. They’ve used it three times so far to save a life. Officers also dispense the medication to those who are vulnerable to overdose.
“Yesterday alone, one of our officers was out in the community with an addiction counsellor from Fourcast. The team spent the day following up with people in the community who have recently overdosed, people who are struggling with an addiction, as well as dispensing Naloxone kits to those who are at risk of overdosing.” Murtha says.
Vera Fillion lost her son, Skylar Baldwin, to a Fentanyl overdose 6 years ago in Lindsay. She’s on a crusade to change how we look at drug addiction and the time it takes to get into treatment.
“My son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was younger, he was bullied for years, no father figure in his life. The bullying took a toll on him, he told me he took drugs to hide the pain, he didn’t want to feel anything anymore.” Fillion says.
The day Skylar died Fillion says she didnt speak to her son because they’d had an argument about drugs.
“That was the worst day of my life. I saw him at 11 am in the morning, alive. He had a bedroom in the basement and had his girlfriend over. I guess he went back downstairs after I saw him. We never spoke because we’d had an agrument the night before. He smoked Fentanyl and died.”
Fillion is telling her son’s story in hopes of helping others.
“I just want to be able to help people, others that are suffering with mental health and addictions.”
Read more about Vera and Skylar here: https://www.kawartha411.ca/2019/10/26/six-years-ago-today-skylar-baldwin-died-of-a-drug-overdose-his-grieving-mother-is-on-a-crusade-in-his-memory/?fbclid=IwAR3VaMX5RDYjimH2FaVTpJW-xWHR9YWpx-QTMYToashS0VnYnSyXYdYY-Po
Kalosza says before we can find answers we need to admit there’s a problem. “The family and friends of these people deserve that.”
The Police Services Board has asked for a report on the increase of overdoses. It will be presented next week.