Sudbury group asking businesses to put naloxone kits in bathrooms

Tracy Gregory says she's tired of losing friends to the opioid epidemic. Now, the Sudbury woman is working with a group to ask local businesses to keep naloxone kits in their bathrooms. 

"We do not want to lose any more of our friends" says head of the Sex Workers Advisory Network of Sudbury

A naloxone kit and a sharps container sit on top of a paper towel dispenser in the bathroom of Golded Pizza on Kathleen Street in Sudbury. (Lisa Irwin)

Tracy Gregory says she's tired of losing friends to the opioid epidemic.

Now, the Sudbury woman is asking local businesses to keep naloxone kits in their bathrooms. 

Gregory is the founder and executive director of the Sex Workers Advisory Network of Sudbury (SWANS). Part of its mandate, she said, is to "keep sex working community members as safe as possible ... and one of the things we know right now is that people are at a higher risk of overdose."

Since the spring, SWANS has been approaching businesses in the Donovan neighbourhood of Sudbury with their ask. 

Gregory said some business owners had been complaining about used needles littering the area, and people using their facilities to get high. 

She said SWANS wanted to start a conversation.

"Some of [them] were very open to having naloxone on-site, and having safer disposal bins on-site," Gregory said, "because they know that this is a health issue, and there's a risk of overdose, and they want to do what they can to keep people alive."

'It's horrible right now out there'

Marie Pollock has been a member of SWANS for the last few years, and she's been helping to hand out the kits and then collect the used needles and drug paraphernalia.

"People have nowhere to live," said Pollock, of the desperation she sees. "There's huge demand for services for people out there that are using drugs, [for] the sex workers that are out there."

"It's horrible right now out there," she said, adding "we've got a high rate of people overdosing and resulting in death in Sudbury."

Public Health Sudbury and District issued a release in October confirming much the same: there has been "an increase in suspected opioid overdoses."

Gregory said SWANS is in a unique position to help. 

"We have a group of women who have lived experience in the sex industry," she said. 

"We can make people feel comfortable coming in, and bringing in their used supplies, and receiving new supplies from us without any type of shame or stigma or judgment around their drug use practices or their sex work." 

Gregory added that lately, attitudes in Sudbury around drug use — and drug users — seem to be changing.

"There's more of a community buy-in to keep people alive, and supporting people," she said, "and much less of the push-back and the judgment and the shaming and the inconvenience of having people in their areas that are using drugs or working in the sex industry."

"There's some shifting happening, I think."


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