Public health officials warning of more overdose calls in Belleville after 2 deaths in the last week

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health is encouraging drug users to take safety precautions, including having naloxone available, to avoid overdosing. File / Global News

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health says Belleville police have been dealing with more overdose calls during the last week and have responded to two deaths caused by overdose since March 16.

The local public health unit said it’s possible the uptick in overdoses could be caused by anxiety induced by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which “may lead to an increase in substance use for vulnerable individuals.”

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Hastings Prince Edward Public Health is asking those who use drugs to engage in “harm reduction” efforts to avoid overdosing.

“This includes having a naloxone kit, avoiding mixing drugs or using drugs with alcohol, using a small test dose first and, most importantly, not using alone,” the public health unit said.

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Nevertheless, public health officials are still encouraging everyone to practise social distancing, which means maintaining a two-metre distance from all other people. They also encourage everyone to frequently wash their hands, clean all surfaces where drugs are being prepared and avoid sharing drug paraphernalia.

READ MORE: 3rd confirmed case of COVID-19 identified in Hastings, Prince Edward region

For those who are forced to use alone, public health encourages people to call into its overdose prevention line, which is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m. to midnight at 1-888-853-8542.

“Harm reduction supplies will continue to be available, but be aware of the increased risk of infection when using drugs or responding to an overdose,” said Dr. Piotr Oglaza, medical officer of health for Hastings Prince Edward Public Health.

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