Deaths tripled in Algoma among people with substance abuse disorders

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On August 31st each year organizations in the city stop to mark Substance Abuse Awareness day.

In light of that fact and the situation inside our paramedic force, we reached out to Algoma Public Health for the numbers relating to substance abuse within our region.

After considerable time spent by Public Health Nurse Allison McFarlane, they were able to compile the numbers and send them back to us. They are as follows –

In Ontario:

  • 90.2% of opioid-related deaths during the pandemic cohort were among people aged 25 to 44
  • During the pandemic cohort, 16% of opioid-related deaths occurred among individuals experiencing homelessness, more than double compared to the pre-pandemic cohort
  • Fentanyl directly contributed to 87% of opioid-related deaths during the pandemic cohort (compared to 75% in the pre-pandemic cohort)
Needles lined up which were picked up in the downtown core, June 10, 2021. (Dan Gray/

In Algoma –

  • In 2020, the rate of opioid-related death in the Algoma district was 44.7 per 100, 000 (compared to Ontario at 16.3 per 100,000 people).
  •  In 2020, the opioid-related death rate in Algoma was 3x the rate reported in 2019 (14.9 per 100,000)
  • From April 2020 to March 2021, there were 51 total deaths reported (41 confirmed and 10 probable). This represents a 96% increase in opioid-related deaths compared to the previous year (26 opioid-related deaths reported)
  • From January 2021 to July 2021, a total of 45 suspected drug-related deaths were reported

This means, we lose over one person weekly to substance abuse and are on track for 77 deaths by year end.

When speaking with Donna DeSimon of Addictions and Mental Health Associates, she was shocked by the numbers.

“I knew it was bad, but didn’t think it was this bad,” said DeSimon.

There is no easy answer to solving the drug crises in Algoma. Sault Area Hospital announced a 20 bed residential withdrawal and safe bed centre, being installed at the old Sault Star Building as well as the Wellness Bus (a collaborative initiative with DSSAB) are two preliminary strategies.

Another plan of action which has shown some proven success in other jurisdictions include a municipality investing in more social workers and other harm reduction strategies through their various social services providers.

Algoma Public Health has these tips for individuals who have lived through and are currently living through experiences with these disorders:

–        Call 911 immediately if you think someone is experiencing an opioid poisoning
–        Never use alone – if this is not possible, have someone you trust check on you
o   If you do not have someone that can be with you, use a telephone service such as NORS<>
–        Always start with a low dose and increase slowly, especially if trying something new or restarting use. If you previously used substances regularly, but have not used for some time, do not take the same amount as before, because your body will not be used to it and you will be at high risk of overdose.
–       Carry a naloxone kit<> (available at local pharmacies and other organizations or through online courses such as Naloxone Cares<>)
–        Never mix substances, including alcohol, as this increases your risk of overdose
–        To prevent the spread of COVID-19, when responding to an opioid poisoning, wear a mask if possible, wear the gloves provided in the naloxone kit and perform chest compression only CPR.

Stay with SaultOnline as we continue to tell the stories that matter to you in Sault Ste. Marie.


  1. ..& yet no mention that this population was most recently coerced into getting vaccinated. Not a good idea to shoot heroin when your heart is already swollen with ‘micro-clots’, just sayin’.

    Strange daze indeed..

  2. The rogue mayor thinks that an overpriced unnecessary downtown plaza is far more important than addiction services and the ever increasing number of drug dealers, thefts, robberies and violent crime.

  3. “I view my relationship with my elected Government as an abusive one. I am not alone.

    “… I have attached an info-graphic from the Workplace Mental Health Institute to this email which is titled 15 signs you are in an abusive relationship. I think you will find many of the statements match this Government’s behavior 100%. I have passed this on to many friends and family members and all were quite shocked as to how close it mirrored our current situation.”
    (15 Signs you may be in an abusive relationship)

    You may be in an abusive relationship if they ….

    1. Stop you from seeing friends and family.

    2. Won’t let you go out without permission.

    3. Tell you what to wear.

    4. Monitor your phone or emails.

    5. Control the finances, or won’t let you work.

    6. Control what you read, watch and say.

    7. Monitor everything you do.

    8. Punish you for breaking the rules, but the rules keep changing!

    9. Tell you it is for your own good, and that they know better.

    10. Don’t allow you to question it.

    11. Tell you you’re crazy and no one agrees with you.

    12. Call you names or shame you for being stupid or selfish.

    13. Gaslight you, challenge your memory of events, make you doubt yourself.

    14. Dismiss your opinions.

    15. Play the victim. If things go wrong, it’s all your fault.

  4. Told you from the beginning that lockdowns would lead to more overall deaths.

    Increased deaths from ODs and suicides (many from the newly unemployed/homeless) outweigh covid lives saved by a longshot. And we’re just getting started.

    Get your boosters, though, and your vax passports, cause we’re all in this fight together!

  5. Some of these deaths can be attributed to the 2 thousand dollar stimulus checks,plus the constant statements saying drug addiction is a disease, giving them the idea that it’s ok to do drugs because it’s a disease,not their fault they’re addicted

  6. There’s no easy answer for solving the drug crises, because first you must treat the insanity. As far as I’m aware there’s no treatment for insanity, that’s what makes it so effective for the destruction of people. Most of the time it is unintentional, but if one where inclined to do so and had the necessary resources at their disposal they could theoretically destroy an entire civilization. It’s one of those things where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  7. Great job on this article Dan. It’s about time the truth comes out and someone reports on this. I had to scratch and go tooth and nail to get these numbers from APH and other bodies 6 months ago. This is 100% direct collateral damage as per C19. Businesses dead…suicides…overdoses…….but yeah lockdowns were the solution. (Heavy Sarcasm)

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