Nearly twice the number of deaths in 2016, three times as many as in 2015
New numbers from Waterloo Regional Police show the rate of suspected overdose deaths continues to rise at rapid rate in the region.
To date, 65 people have died from suspected opioid overdoses in 2017. In 2016, there were 38 deaths and 22 in 2015.
“It’s not good news,” said Michael Parkinson, community engagement coordinator for the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council. “Those numbers, like other communities across Canada, are going the wrong way.”
Opiod overdose deaths
- 2016: 38 people
- 2015: 23 people
- 2014: 22 people
- 2013: 22 people
- 2012: 25 people
Part of the problem, Parkinson told CBC’sThe Morning Edition host Craig Norris, may be people fear being arrested if they call 911 when an overdoes happens.
Numbers from research conducted by the Crime Prevention Council back in 2012 show just 46 per cent of the time, people called 911 during an overdose emergency, compared to a 90 per cent call rate for cardiac arrest.
“The primary barrier to making that call was fear of entanglement with the criminal justice system,” Parkinson said. “It was fear of the police that was preventing people from making that lifesaving call.”
Good Samaritan Law
The council launched a new awareness campaign Thursday to educate people about the new federal Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, which became law in May.
In May, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale said the act “provide[s] immunity from simple possession charges for those who call 911 in the case of an overdose.
“This law ensures that you can call for help when someone is having a drug overdose and stay to provide them support until emergency responders arrive with guaranteed immunity from certain charges related to simple possession of illegal drugs.”
The act was a private member’s bill that passed quickly with little fanfare or publicity.
“A private member’s bill in Canada can’t have resources attached to it. So you can’t include a budget, for example, for promotion. So we knew this would be a gap,” Parkinson said.
That’s why they, in partnership with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Law Foundation of Ontario, created a fact sheet and wallet card that explains the law in plain and simple terms.
“Whether you’re working in enforcement, someone who is using drugs, someone in service provision. This really clarifies what the law does and does not do,” Parkinson said.
According to the act, it provides protection from:
- Possession charges for controlled substances.
- Breach of pre-trial, probation, conditional sentences or parole provisions.
But the act does not provide protection from what the federal government considers “more serious offences” including:
- Outstanding warrants.
- Production and trafficking controlled substances.
The fact sheet and wallet cards can be printed out from the Crime Prevention Council’s website. The Law Society of Ontario is funding the production of 50,000 of the wallet cards, which can be ordered through the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network website.
Author: Jackie Sharkey