Bootleg fentanyl creating overdose crisis in town

The number of calls to paramedics for overdoses in the city has more than doubled since 2012, and one drug, fentanyl, is the main suspect behind the surge.

And things might get even worse.

“I definitely think it is a crisis here,” says Rob Boyd, director of the Oasis clinic at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre and a leader in the harm reduction field in Ottawa.

“I said going into the summer that I had a bad feeling about it. I really try hard not to be alarmist when it comes to this stuff, but I think powdered fentanyl is a real game-changer.”

The worrisome thing about fentanyl, first widely used in patch-form as a painkiller, is its potency. Described as 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin, only a few grains can cause an overdose, sometimes fatal.

In some jurisdictions, police officers have overdosed just by handling the powder, among the shocking stories popping up all over North America.

Just last week, nine young people in a Vancouver suburb overdosed almost simultaneously after sharing cocaine that was spiked with fentanyl, with eight of them ending up in hospital.

The problem today is that fentanyl is widely available in powder form and is being mixed — in uncertain dosages — with all kinds of street drugs.

“From one dose to the next, you don’t know what the concentration is,” said Boyd.

Added Catherine Hacksel, a member of the addictions support group, DUAL, and the co-ordinator of a weekly drop-in program:

“With fentanyl, you can buy enough to kill you in a dime bag.”

City survey finds huge support for safe injection sites in Ottawa

An unscientific survey by Ottawa’s public-health unit over the summer found two-thirds of us support new supervised drug-injection facilities aimed at helping addicts survive overdoses.

The survey, an online questionnaire, was a consultation meant to gauge the public’s attitude toward such sites, which Ottawa Public Health thinks would work best added to existing community health centres and other agencies that operate needle exchanges and methadone clinics. Anybody could go to the health unit’s website and fill the survey out — so it’s more like an Internet version of a public meeting than a poll.

According to the health unit, more than one-quarter of the participants identified themselves as either health practitioners or people who work at agencies that help drug users. They also gave out paper copies to people at existing drug clinics; five per cent of respondents said they’re current or former users of harm-reduction services. The result is what the health unit calls a “a convenience sample,” people who were easy to reach.

Nevertheless, 66 per cent of the 2,263 people who took part said they believe supervised injection sites would be beneficial in Ottawa, against 27 per cent who oppose the idea. The most support came from the wards where injection sites would be likeliest to open — Somerset, Rideau-Vanier, Capital, River and Kitchissippi, where support ranged from 77 to 90 per cent.

Overdose Awareness Day 2016

International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on August 31st each year to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. Join us at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin at 11:30 for the Ottawa event.

For more info, follow Overdose Awareness Day Ottawa on Facebook.

Support grows for Ottawa safe injection site

Support for a safe injection site in Ottawa is growing, particularly among younger people, a new poll shows.

The Forum Research poll shows 58 per cent of those surveyed on July 22 said they approved of a safe injection site for intravenous drug users in downtown Ottawa, up four percentage points from when the same question was asked in May.

Support was highest among those aged 18-34 (58 per cent), those with postgraduate degrees (68 per cent), and those who lived with marijuana dispensaries in their neighbourhoods (67 per cent).

World Hepatitis Day 2016 in Ottawa


This Wednesday for World Hepatitis Day there will be an event at Ottawa City Hall with individual consultations, testing & vaccination as well as entertainment & a complimentary BBQ.

CSCS and DUAL will be tabling with info on harm reduction & SIS, so come on out and say hello!

When: 12-2pm, July 27th
Where: Ottawa City Hall 
RSVP on Facebook
 

Ottawa's health board backs supervised injection sites

Ottawa’s board of health voted 9-2 Monday night to encourage supervised-injection sites to open in the city.

“Listen to, more than anything, the people who live this,” Capital Coun. David Chernushenko told skeptics. He’d come into the health-board meeting not knowing how much he didn’t know about addiction, and treatment, and what it’s like to be a drug addict, he said.

The board heard from several, all begging the board to say it supports the notion of opening supervised facilities where addicts can inject drugs in the presence of nurses who can rescue them from overdoses. People like Darren Noftall, twitchy, tense, out of place at the formal table in city hall’s committee room, who said his life had been saved twice at Vancouver’s Insite. He overdosed at Canada’s first safe-injection site and the nurses saved him.

He left Vancouver, thinking he’d be better at home in Ontario. It hasn’t worked out that way yet.

“I live alone. I use alone. That puts me at high risk to die alone,” he said. “When I go home, I’m going to do that hit tonight, I don’t know if I’m going to be alive in the morning.”

Support Don't Punish 2016 event

Thursday June 23, 11am - 1pm
Minto Park, 315 Elgin St., Ottawa
RSVP on Facebook

Once again Ottawa will join people in over 100 cities around the world that believe “the harms caused by the war on drugs can no longer be ignored.” This is the fourth annual global Support Don’t Punish day of action. Each city takes their own issues and actions under the umbrella of ending the war on drugs across the globe.

In Ottawa this year we will be calling attention to the need for a ‘Good Samaritan Policy’. A Good Samaritan Policy is when there’s a written rule that protects people from drug possession charges when calling and waiting for emergency services in an overdose situation. Too often, when someone overdoses people hesitate or don’t call emergency health services for fear of being charged by police. Let’s legalize supporting our friends in emergency situations.

Learn more about the global Support Don't Punish campaign.

Supervised injection site up for debate Monday at Ottawa health board meeting

Ray Harrison has seen people shoot up using water from toilets and puddles.

He's pulled friends who were overdosing in the street to a phone booth to call 911, so they wouldn't be tracked by police.

Now Harrison — a former drug user himself who says he's been clean since the New Year's Day 2014 — says it's time for Ottawa to open a supervised injection site.

He believes they will help prevent people from spreading disease and give them a reason to access health care services, which could start them on a road to breaking their addictions.

"You need to be able to start somewhere and not necessarily when you hit rock bottom, when you get incarcerated," Harrison told CBC News ahead of tonight's Ottawa Board of Health meeting.

The city's medical officer of health, Dr. Isra Levy, is expected to make his case at that meeting for why Ottawa should have supervised injection sites, and why Ottawa Public Health should support agencies that propose to set them up.

Community health centres will be at tonight's Ottawa Board of Health meeting to offer Levy their full support, and Harrison is planning to be there, too.

"I think the safer injection site will save a lot of people, and the community, a lot of grief; along with the police [since] they're not having to chase these people down in somebody's backyard," Harrison said.

Downtown Ottawa councillor welcomes safe injection site

An Ottawa councillor says he welcomes a safe injection site downtown – but only if there are similar services across the city.

On Monday, Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury, and five other councillors on the board of health, will debate a staff report that recommends opening a supervised injection site in the city.

Given that the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre has already consulted on its plan to provide such a service, a safe injection site will likely go in his ward.

“I can support a model that is holistic, that makes sense, that supports a drug user in their community, and if that means they’re in my community, for sure,” said Fleury.

Don't deny the benefits of supervised injection sites

The experts have all weighed in: Ottawa is teetering on the precipice of an overdose crisis. Supervised injection sites can save the lives of some of the people at risk.

The city’s health unit and chief medical officer now say they support a safe-injection site. Six city councillors who sit on the health board are all open to the prospect, which they’ll debate Monday.

Now it’s time for the mayor and police chief to rethink their position.

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