Family Matters: Responding to the opioid related crisis in the Sault


A Mother of deceased opioid user realizes her dead daughter’s dream, but it’s not what you might think.

Family Matter is responding to the opioid related overdose crisis in Sault Ste. Marie.

“I don’t see my daughter’s death as cry for empathy, but rather a call to action.

Steps can be taken that would significantly curtail deaths related to opioid poisoning in the community. So why aren’t we even talking about them?” says mother, Donna May.

“My daughter Jacey’s Life and Death can only have purpose if we learn from it. By openly and honestly discussing why people use drugs to begin with, can we develop strategies on how to keep our substance users alive long enough for them to make a different choice.

All that mattered to my daughter in the end was that I brought it all home to Sault Ste Marie, her community, to help end the needless and senseless deaths due to substance use.”

On April 27th, recognized experts in the field of Substance Use meet with the community of Sault Ste Marie to openly address questions and concerns around instituting harm reduction practices that address the Opioid Related Overdose Crisis and have proven to be successful elsewhere in Canada.

The event will take place at The TECH, 130 Wellington St E., SSM 7 pm – 9:30 pm.

April 28th provides a full day conference for the public, practitioners and front line workers to interact in and determine if, and in which setting, life saving modalities are needed and might be implemented into the community. (The Delta Waterfront Hotel, 208 Saint Mary’s Drive, SSM from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm).

Our Expert Guests for these events include: Tara Gomes  (Epidemiologist and Principal Investigator at Ontario Drug Policy Research Network), Rob Boyd (Oasis Program Director at Sandy Hill Community Health Centre), Michael Parkinson (Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council), Adam Chalcraft (Harm Reduction Coordinator at Peel HIV/AIDS Network) and Dr Mike Franklyn (Rapid Access Addiction Medicine).

It doesn’t end there.

The findings from the two events will culminate in a roundtable Think-Tank that delivers the concerns and requests of the community to the Algoma Leadership Table, other community leaders, first responders and those who use substances in the community.

At the Think-Tank, strategies for community acceptance, implementation of services, timelines and costs will be developed and reported back to the community by way of a published public report.

With this information in hand, citizens will be equipped to ensure actions are quickly implemented to address the needless and senseless deaths of their loved ones.

More than 4,000 opioid related overdose deaths were realized in Canada in 2017. 2018 is expected to prove exponentially worse with more than 6,000 related deaths.

Of the National figure, 1,053 of those deaths took place in Ontario with Algoma region recognized as being disproportionally impacted.

Not only is it time to talk – it’s time to take action!


Please direct queries to:

Donna May

Founder & Facilitator, mumsDU-moms united and mandated to saving the lives of Drug Users

[email protected]


In the more than five years since her daughter’s death, Donna’s advocacy work has taken her from coast to coast – and everywhere in-between – in Canada. On behalf of her National organization, MUMSDU, she has addressed the United Nations twice (New York & Vienna) to provide an address on measures to be taken to reduce the harms of substance use.

Proud moments were realized at at the UN in New York (2016) where the then Federal Minister of Health, Jane Philpott, spoke of her daughter’s opioid use in her address at the General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem and being asked to be the family voice on substance use at the Ministers Opioid Summit.

Donna continues her advocacy through her active roles in Opioid related research Canada wide and committee work with Health Quality Ontario and the Citizen’s Panel of Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, including the newly established ‘Ontario Opioid Drug Observatory’.

Connie Raynor-Elliott 

SOYA-Save Our Young Adults

[email protected]


Known as Mama Bear to her cubs, Connie has worked ground zero with substance users in Sault Ste Marie for years – a service for the whole community which some of us never see.

Substance use does not have to be a death sentence for our loved ones and Connie has made it her mission to work with the needs of substance users to see that death due to substance use doesn’t happen in her community.

Lisa Damignani

Owner – O’Sullivan Funeral Home

[email protected]

When Lisa recognized the sharp and direct correlation between an increase in business and deaths related to substance use in the community, she knew she had to help raise awareness of the crisis.

Reaching out to support Donna and Connie, with resources that bring both community and experts together to determine evidence based best practises to reduce deaths, is her way of showing that her family cares about yours.



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