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Possible link between more overdoses and pandemic isolation: Guelph health officials
Published Thursday, June 4, 2020 10:21PM EDT
GUELPH -- The number of suspect overdose deaths in Guelph since the outbreak of COVID-19 has already surpassed the number of deaths in all of 2019.
Health officials say isolation could be a contributing factor, as staff at the consumption treatment centre have seen about half of the regular users during the time of the pandemic.
“From mid March until just the end of May we’ve seen eight deaths,” said Raechelle Devereaux, executive director of the Guelph Community Health Centre.
In 2018, there were seven overdose deaths in Guelph.
Jade McAfee uses the CTS site and say she’s lost a lot of friends to overdoses.
“It is scary,” she said. “I myself have overdosed 13 times.”
While officials say a toxic supply is to blame for overdoses, the COVID-19 pandemic has added a hurdle when it comes to prevention.
“The same things that are keeping people safe during the pandemic like isolating and staying home are some things that work against us,” said Devereaux.
Registered nurse Danielle Castledine supervises injections and says they would normally see 30 people a day before the pandemic.
“Before we had an intermediate space where people could be before and after,” she said. “So even if they were waiting they were waiting with peer workers and nurses and social workers.”
To help with better spacing, they’ve opened a new booth to decrease wait times and encourage more people to use the services.
“[Before the crisis] you didn’t have to have a mask, get stopped, have your temperature taken when you could blow in and out easily,” said Eric Cunningham, a user of the CTS site.
Staff say the lack of foot traffic at the CTS is a bad sign and worry the alternative is using in isolation, which decreases the likelihood of potentially life-saving intervention.
“It’s better for anybody to not do it alone,” said McAfee.
The health centre says between March 17 and May 30 there were 63 overdoses.
In the same time period last year there were 74, but only one overdose death.
The Guelph Community Health Centre says the team is door knocking at vulnerable apartment and shelters to give more information on harm reduction to help those potential using alone.