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‘We’re losing people we love’: Frontline staff alarmed after seven suspected overdose deaths in Kingston, Ont.

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Health officials in Kingston, Ont. are raising the alarm after an increase in suspected overdose-related deaths.

They say it’s part of a pattern, and something needs to be done to combat the growing trend.

On Thursday, Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health released a statement warning a toxic batch of illicit drugs is making the rounds in the city, and warned of a growing number of overdoses and deaths. 

Justine McIsaac, the safe consumption site services coordinator with Kingston Community Health Centres, says their numbers show there have been seven suspected opioid related deaths in the last 13 days alone.

“We’re dealing with a very toxic drug supply in the community right now. We have had a staggering number of overdoses in the community,” McIsaac explains. “We’re responding to multiple on site a day.”

She says the numbers are increasing.

“You could compare this to April of last year and we did not have that many deaths in a month, let a lone a week and a bit,” McIsaac explains.

The drugs are believed to be cut with things like fentanyl, which experts say is up to 100 times stronger than morphine. 

Public health is encouraging people to carry naloxone kits and say not to use alone. 

“We’re losing people we love and care about,” says McIsaac. “People in this community are being ripped apart by grief and tragedy.”

Susan Stewart is the chair of the drug strategy advisory committee with KFL&A Public Health. She says opioid-related drugs overdoses and deaths have seen a dramatic rise since the start of the pandemic across the province. 

“This is a silent epidemic,” she says. “We’ve had more people who have died from accidental opioid poisonings than we have had due to COVID.”

Stewart says the best way forward is a review of policies by all levels of government.

“Decriminalizing personal amounts of substances I think is an important step forward and would send a strong message to those in the community who use drugs that we know this is a health issue, not a criminal issue,” she says.

McIsaac agrees, and says policies are failing those who are most vulnerable.

“We’re losing young lives that deserve far more than what we have given to them.”

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