Kitchener-Waterloo

At least 3 suspected drug overdose deaths in Cambridge in January

Waterloo Regional Police Service responded to 81 suspected overdoses last month, including three fatal overdoses in Cambridge.

Three deaths in Cambridge among 81 suspected overdoses attended by WRPS

Waterloo Regional Police Service responded to 81 suspected overdoses in January, including three fatal overdoses in Cambridge. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

At least three people died of suspected opioid overdoses in January, according to regional police.

Waterloo Regional Police Service responded to 81 suspected overdoses last month. Cambridge had all three fatal suspected overdoses as well as 31 non-fatal, while police responded to 35 non-fatal overdoses in Kitchener and 12 in Waterloo.

Overdose deaths are considered "suspected" until they have been confirmed by the coroner's office, which can take up to 12 months.

WRPS raised warnings in January after responding to 37 suspected drug overdoses in just eight days.

Meanwhile, there were 102 overdose related calls to 911 in January, up slightly from 97 in December, according to the Waterloo Region Integrated Drugs Strategy. This includes data from police and paramedics, though many overdoses are not actually called into 911.

The strategy reports naloxone, the overdose-reversing drug, has been administered 19 times so far this year. At this point in 2020, it had been used nine times.

'There's no end in sight'

Michael Parkinson with the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council said COVID-19 has made things worse.

He said the calls to stay home and stay apart have led people to overdose alone and support organizations have had a harder time providing services.

"We're seeing direct service agencies just get crushed by overwhelming demand," he said. "In the meantime, people are very much losing their lives, sometimes in shelters, sometimes in private residences."

Parkinson said the pandemic has proven governments can act quickly. He wants to see an "urgent and proportional response to the scale of the crisis," mentioning safe supply programs in particular, which provide non-contaminated drugs for people who use them.

"Each time that there's a data release, it's worse than the previous time," he said. "There's no end in sight for 2021."

In 2020, 98 people are suspected to have died of drug overdoses in Waterloo region, a steep increase from previous years. In 2019, there were 63 suspected overdose deaths and in 2018 there were 61.

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