New initiatives at Guelph's CTS site to combat increase in opioid deaths
GUELPH -- The Consumption and Treatment Services site in Guelph is planning new initiatives to help lower the risk of overdose deaths.
Deaths have increased all across Ontario this year, including in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.
The new initiatives could include a safe supply pilot project or a second consumption site.
Steven Zandbergen considers himself a recovering addict, but said it's a contact struggle.
"It's an everyday battle and it will be for the rest of my life," Zandbergen said.
He said the last few days have been rough, so he visited Guelph's CTS site.
"My friend did overdose on Thursday night and he passed away," Zandbergen said.
Twenty people have died from overdoses in the community so far this year, compared to seven deaths in 2019.
"Our increase from last year in terms of overdose deaths is 271 per cent higher this year," said Melissa Kwiatkowski, primary health director at the Guelph Community Health Centre.
Those numbers are among the highest in the province, according to Public Health Ontario.
"We've lost too many people," nurse Christina Hughes said.
Hughes said they deal with about two overdoses week and it never gets easier.
"The thoughts going through my head is please live, please take a breath, please come back to fight," she said.
From October 2019 to September 2020, staff have helped reverse around 70 overdoses.
The Guelph Community Health Centre runs the CTS site, and staff and rolling out a new program to offer a safe supply of prescribed opioids.
"Getting to the root cause of why we're getting so many overdoses, we have a toxic street supply," Kwiatkowski said.
Staff plant to start small in the next month.
"It'll be 10 people they get into the program and then, if we are able to get additional funding, we would be able to slowly scale up the program," Kwiatkowski said.
The centre has also applied for a temporary overdose prevention site at the interim COVID-19 shelter.
"There's about 45 guests that are staying here," Kwiatkowski said. "Many of them are using drugs and we've had many overdoses at that site."
It would be considered an "urgent public health needs site" and it's waiting for approval from Health Canada.
"We can get up and going within a couple of weeks," Kwiatkowski said.
Staff said the pandemic is partly to blame for the overdose deaths, since many people are isolated.
Health Canada said people should make sure they never use alone.