Frontline workers in Peterborough say they’re alarmed by the spike in opioid-related overdoses in the area.
On the weekend, police reported 13 overdoses and two deaths in a span of 72 hours.
Officials at the One Roof Community Centre and the Warming Room — organizations that help the homeless and poor — say that since last July, there have been 50 suspected overdoses at their facilities.
In the four years prior, there were no reported overdoses, according to the organizations.
“That is a huge increase that we definitely attribute to this drug poisoning or opioid crisis that is happening in our city,” Christian Harvey, director of Warming Room Community Ministries, told Global News Peterborough on Monday.
He said staff are trained to use naloxone kits to assist in overdoses. Harvey notes that while the Warming Room Community Ministries does not condone drug use, he understands that most people have few options for help, especially since the city does not have a safe injection site.
“We want to both keep a space that is safe for everyone yet keep people alive that are substance users and we’re finding it quite difficult at this time,” he said.
In March, the province approved 15 overdose prevention sites across Ontario. Peterborough did not make the initial list. The Peterborough AIDS Resource Network (PARN) aimed to submit an application but could not find a location from which to operate a prevention site.
“We know that no one has died in a safe injection site,” said Kim Dolan, PARN executive director. “The community feels cared for. Crime rates go down. And it gives us the opportunity to connect people with other services in the community.”
During a press conference on Sunday about the weekend spike in overdoses, Randy Mellow, chief of Peterborough County-City Paramedics, said the situation had reached a “crisis magnitude.”
“In consideration of what we’re seeing this weekend, it needs to be considered that any dose can overdose,” Mellow said. “No amount of drug can be considered safe.”
Dolan says that within the next few weeks, PARN will have fentanyl test kits available at its location on 159 King St., but she warns the kits may not catch all forms of the opioid.
WATCH: Opioid-related overdose spike in Peterborough area prompts public warning