'It's always heartbreaking': Regina police beg public to see dangers of opioids

·3 min read
Regina police encourage people to advocate for family and friends struggling with addiction, and to educate themselves about naloxone. (Denis Dossmann/CBC - image credit)
Regina police encourage people to advocate for family and friends struggling with addiction, and to educate themselves about naloxone. (Denis Dossmann/CBC - image credit)

The Regina Police Service (RPS) is urging the public to see the human side of the province's opioid crisis.

It comes as RPS reports another month of grim overdose statistics.

"We are asking – even begging – people to stop for a moment to consider the clear and present danger of fentanyl and other drugs in our city," the service said in a news release.

"This drug is killing fathers, mothers, children, siblings, friends, neighbours and colleagues. And it is ruining the lives of many more people."

WATCH | Saskatchewan's deadliest opioids:

According to the release, RPS's communications centre transferred 231 calls to paramedics for fatal and non-fatal overdoses in November. In the same month, officers responded to 28 of those calls, with 18 of them resulting in fatalities.

Police say officers responded to 137 calls between Jan. 1 and Dec. 1 where people had died from an overdose. The Saskatchewan Coroners Service, meanwhile, reported 81 confirmed overdose deaths in Regina between Jan. 1 and Nov. 3.

Confirmed and suspected overdose deaths provincewide in 2021 were 363 as of Nov. 3. There were 314 confirmed deaths in 2020.

The human impact of the crisis

Nicki Clarke knows the impact of fatal drug overdoses firsthand.

Clarke's sister died of an overdose five years ago. Today, she's a board member with White Pony Lodge, a non-profit organization in Regina that — among other initiatives — conducts patrols of the city's North Central neighbourhood to remove needles and other items used while injecting drugs.

She says the numbers aren't surprising, but believes people are much more than just their addiction.

Submitted by Nicki Clarke
Submitted by Nicki Clarke

"It's always heartbreaking just to know that we're losing another person," Clarke said.

Her mind often goes to the people she's talked to while working with White Pony Lodge.

"There was one woman going through pretty severe withdrawal. We just sat and talked. She told me about her life."

Submitted by Nicki Clarke
Submitted by Nicki Clarke

Earlier this year, two people overdosed behind White Pony Lodge's building. Clarke called an ambulance and administered naloxone. Thankfully, both survived.

"I certainly always wonder when I hear about another tragic death ... if it was one of the people that I've personally talked to and [if] White Pony Lodge has been a part of their lives," she said.

Interventions, solutions start before drug use: Clarke

Short and long-term solutions are possible, but they start before anyone takes opioids to begin with, Clarke said.

"We need therapy available. Everybody needs to have enough food and shelter ... so they're not always in a state of hypervigilance.

"I truly believe that addiction happens way before anybody ever tries drugs."

She said safe injection sites, mental health and cultural supports would help greatly in the meantime.

Clarke said White Pony Lodge is trying to help those in need this season by asking people to donate money so the organization can buy gloves for those who don't have any.

Regina police, meanwhile, are encouraging people to advocate for family and friends struggling with addiction, and to educate themselves about naloxone.

RPS is asking people to report drug trafficking to them, or to call Crime Stoppers.

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