Saultonline received the following statement from Ward 3 candidate Winona Hutchinson regarding the city’s opioid crisis.
No one can prepare you for the loss of a child or what a parent must have to survive what I can only call a nightmare. As I waited in a long line among others to say goodbye to a gentle young man Aaron, nothing could have prepared me for the deep anguish I saw in my friends eyes or feel her pain in our embrace.
She has asked me to help get a message to our city about the problem we have here in the Sault Ste Marie, the dark little secret that despite having a National Documentary done that should have been our war cry for change still seems to be unaddressed. Our city’s problem – Addictions!.
Aaron himself started the Petition for Change to Sault Area Hospital over one year ago regarding the need for In-Patient Treatment and Medical Detox.
The city’s addicts themselves have been asking for help and sadly he will not be here to see the results he desperately needed. (https://www.change.org/p/sault-ste-marie-needs-an-inpatient-treatment-facility-and-medical-detox? recruiter=false&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=s hare_petition
An article was published in January 15 of this year drawing much needed attention to the crisis as his petition seemed to spur our Hospital seeking funding to build a 33 bed detox facility. As articulated at that time “In Algoma, there are, on average, 59 ED visits, 41 hospitalizations and 12 deaths related to opioid use out of every 100,000 people, compared to 40 ED visits, 23 hospitalizations and eight deaths linked to opioid use out of every 100,000 in the Northeast LHIN area.” (North East Local Health Integrated Network)
In February, 2018 W5 also showed our city’s Opioid crisis in their documentary Steel Town Down. I admit the documentary didn’t show the good parts of our city and depicted us in very bad light, but the fact remains we have a crisis. Yes, this is a crisis that is not just in our community but across our country, but our responsibility is to our community.
Mr. Provenzano felt the need to express his perspective on the issue (after poor representation in the documentary after being blind sided by W5) and calling to light the Sault Area Hospitals request for funding through the North East Local Health Integrated Network and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.
He also stated “I was aware Fentanyl was in our community and that our paramedics are administering Narcan with greater frequency. I was aware of the larger socioeconomic and mental health challenges in our community that relate to substance abuse.
I have spent the largest part of my mayoralty trying to create a system whereby we deal with these challenges more eﬀectively. I was not aware of the actual number of overdoses per month until the director of the documentary threw the statistic into the meeting from oﬀ camera. No one had (or has) ever provided me with the actual overdose statistics. That is not to say that the City does not recognize or is not aware of the overarching problem. It does and is.”
So easy to think that this issue can be encapsulated in such an easy statement but I think our city can do more.
What we all need to understand is there is no quick ﬁx for this, but to wait until the application is granted is NOT a solution.
What I do know after being an advocate for many years is the best way to advocate is through partnerships so if the city was to take a leadership role and unify all the organizations eﬀorts to one plan of attack under a City Drug Strategy we may have a ﬁghting chance to get our community healthy again.
As a past Chair for 2 years for the Ministry of Community Social Services Coordinating Committee in the early 90s I have easily coordinated such ventures Toronto Wide. It may seem to be a daunting task but if you know what your doing and partner with the right people together we can accomplish a lot.
There are a number of addictions counsellors in Sault Ste Marie but I feel many of the organizations are each attempting to do something on their own or not reaching enough. We need to better coordinate our resources and eﬀorts.
There are empty schools that could be looked at as temporary locations for medical detox as a partnership with the school boards, until the application process is complete, as the Application states it is looking for capital funding to build a location.
The Neighborhood Resource Centre help where they can thanks to many organizations, doctors, nurse practitioners, and local police. But they need help. Unless we can provide medical detox with counseling the percentages of reusing are too high to combat.
Another Resource is the Safe Communities and SSM Drug Strategies oﬀers links for those who need information. I have requested a copy of our SSM Drug Strategy and at time of printing have not received it as of yet.
The need for strong, open, and honest discussion with the police, our community and community organizations is immediate to get this under control, we all need to be
educated and cast oﬀ our blind folds. These are not hapless junkies or people of ill repute. They are human and when we stop looking at them as humans in need of help then we have surely lost our humanity.
I do know what we are doing isn’t enough as I know of a few people that have had to leave our city to seek treatment, but that is not easily aﬀorded by many.
This issue is too important to sit on a list for years or to be rolled into one initiative or committee after another or run the risk of being forgotten altogether.
One only needs to join the Neighborhood Watch Communities on Facebook to see some of the impact this has on our community.
This is one of the reasons why I am running to be Councillor for Ward 3 to be an advocate for change and hold people accountable up and down, as this crisis is not limited to just one ward but across all boundaries of our city.