The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit is reporting a significant uptick in overdoses since 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic started, which has continued to escalate into 2021.
In the first six months of this year, the health unit received 195 overdose reports, which includes fatal and non-fatal overdoses.
Compared to 165 reports for the total of 2020, this means that halfway through 2021, overdose reports have already surpassed the entirety of the previous year.
Harm Reduction Coordinator for the health unit, Jennifer Adams, says that the region is reaching a crisis point.
“A lot of people think that this is just an urban problem. And I think, you know, absolutely urban, but rural we really, really struggle to manage the situation,” says Adams.
“We don’t have access to as many resources as people do in the urban centres. We’re really a small handful of people dealing with an escalating crisis.”
She says that while this is a problem in multiple regions, for them, a lack of resources makes things even more difficult.
“We can’t be reliant to try and send people to Ottawa or into Kingston to get help, because people don’t want to go to Ottawa or Kingston to get help. They want help within their own community, but we just don’t have the resources to offer people,” she says.
“Our community looks towards myself and my handful of colleagues that I work with as the experts, but we don’t, we’re out of answers at this point,” Adams says. “We don’t know where to go next with this.
“And what can we do in such a rural area where there’s very little resources, very little capacity on workers to manage this.”
The health unit says the illicit drug supply in the region is contaminated with ingredients that naloxone overdose kits will not work on, making the situation even more dire.
“We’re tired. The families are tired, the community is tired, the front-line workers are tired.”
Adams wants to remind people that calling 911 is the most important step to saving someone’s life, and is often overlooked or forgotten in these circumstances.