'We have seen significant overdoses' Mental health supports decline during pandemic
COLLINGWOOD, ONT. -- The numbers were already worrying, but throughout the pandemic, the opioid crisis has become devastating.
Youth Haven's France Young says the situation doesn't discriminate. "It covers all professions, all age groups, and it's an issue. It's an issue that has to be addressed. We have seen significant overdoses," she says.
Public health statistics show 117 confirmed and probable opioid-related deaths in Simcoe Muskoka in the first 11 months of 2020, 50 percent higher than the average over the previous three years.
In Collingwood, emergency crews recently responded to three reports of multiple people suffering drug overdoses. Naloxone is a potentially life-saving medication used to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose and was given to three people. Only two survived.
Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region's medical officer of health, says it's part of a larger problem. He notes increases in substance abuse, eating disorders, and suicides. "I looked at the data with respect to the increase in suicides. Some of the individuals are very young. I had to report a 22-year-old the other day, so those are individuals who are real losses to our community."
Young says more mental health resources and supports are needed, especially for younger people. "Waitlists are extensive. Some services are six months to a year waitlist, and so that also increases anxiety and stress."
Young says the lack of supports drives some to make the wrong choices. "Drugs, unfortunately, can become a gateway to relieve pain for anyone."
Public health officials say that opioids can be tainted with other dangerous street drugs, and Naloxone doesn't always reverse the effects. They advise calling 911 to prevent a deadly overdose.
"Each life is important. We can't forget that," Young concludes.