2 more suspected drug-related deaths in Peterborough, health unit reports

Peterborough Public Health reports two drug-related deaths on Tuesday.
Peterborough Public Health reports two drug-related deaths on Tuesday. The Canadian Press file

Peterborough Public Health reports there were two more suspected opioid drug-related deaths in the city on Tuesday.

The deaths come just a week after the health unit reported three drug-related deaths in Peterborough in a 48-hour span.

READ MORE: 3 drug-related deaths in last 48 hours in Peterborough: health unit

The health unit says it is investigating the deaths which both occurred at home, according to medical officer of health Dr. Rosana Salvaterra.

“Using (drugs) alone is a serious risk,” she said. “Not using alone can be an important life-saving measure.”

Salvaterra says the latest opioid-related deaths brings the city’s overall total to 17 with eight of those since the beginning of May.

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There were 30 drug-related deaths in the City of Peterborough in 2019.

She said the health unit has engaged its early-warning task force for an investigation to identify common factors behind these tragic deaths.

“We do know we are not alone in this crisis. Other communities such as Guelph and Toronto have seen spikes,” she said. “There are likely multiple factors causing these untimely deaths. We continue our call for a comprehensive approach to this tragic epidemic for opioid and other potent drugs.”

Salvaterra said she supports Toronto medical officer of health Eileen de Villa who has been campaigning for a model based in British Columbia which provides a safer drug supply by supporting managed opioid and safer supply programs.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario opioid crisis worsens during pandemic as services for drug users scale back

“So people who use them are not at risk of dying of contaminated drugs from street dealers,” said Salvaterra.

She noted the health unit’s board is on record with a motion asking the provincial and federal governments to legalize a safe supply of opioids.

“As one part of a comprehensive approach that is needed,” she said.

Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien says thanked the health unit for continuing to highlight the city’s opioid crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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“It is taking a significant number of lives, particularly as people deal with mental health and addictions in the context of COVID-19,” she said.

Salvaterra said a safe consumption site for the city is “urgently needed.”

“It has a great deal of support – much of the legwork has been done. We would certainly welcome any news from MPP (Dave) Smith and the province.”

Salvaterra noted anyone using drugs should have a naloxone kit nearby. They should not mix drugs and shouldn’t do them alone. Under Canada’s Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, if you seek medical help for yourself or for someone else
who has overdosed, an individual cannot be charged for possessing or using drugs for your own use, Salvaterra noted.