Windsor

Man who tried to help teen before his fatal overdose remembers him as 'a very nice kid'

A 16-year-old's apparent opioid overdose has two Windsorites speaking up about the drug problem in the city and offering support for youth who are feeling lost.

Josh Chouinard was 17 when he died of an apparent opioid overdose

Alexander Morillo, 23, had been in contact with Josh Chouinard multiple times prior to Chouinard's death. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

A Windsor man says he tried to help 17-year-old Josh Chouinard before he died of an apparent opioid overdose on Monday.

Alexander Morillo, 23, reached out to Chouinard for the first time after the teen was allegedly pinned to the wall by a vehicle that his mother was driving. His mother is facing an attempted murder charge.

"He was very troubled when I first met him," said Morillo.

"He felt like nobody in the world had cared for him. He felt like he was lost, he was out of place. And all he wanted was for people to love him."

When Chouinard was using drugs on Sunday, his peers recorded his overdose, which was then circulated on social media.

"Instantly, I got sick to my stomach," said Morillo, who had seen the videos and photos on social media.

He felt like nobody in the world had cared for him. He felt like he was lost, he was out of place. And all he wanted was for people to love him.- Alexander Morillo

Morillo is coming from a place of understanding, as he used to struggle with drugs and alcohol. He's been free from those substances since 2009 and encourages people to reach out to him if they are feeling lost.

Morillo says Chouinard was a nice kid when he wasn't intoxicated. (Josh Chouinard/Facebook)

 Mehari Hagos is also committed to helping struggling teens.

He founded the MH-100 program, a place for at-risk youth to get fit, do homework, learn financial literacy and also about the kinds of drugs that are in their environment.

Hagos was inspired to start the program by his experiences growing up in the city's Glengarry neighbourhood, which he said was ridden with drugs.

"It's like a zombieland out there," said Hagos, who thinks the drugs have only gotten worse over the 10 years since his program first started.

The MH-100 program offers a chance for youth to be away from that environment, according to Hagos, and he said a lot of them are going to university and college, instead of to jail.

He said it doesn't matter who you are and where you go to school, that you can reach out if you need support.

"Whether you're black or white, whether you're rich or poor, we know the drug epidemic is hurting everybody," said Hagos.

Mehari Hagos, founder of MH-100, says youth can reach out to him for support if they need it. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

According to Morillo, Chouinard wasn't able to find a sense of belonging anywhere, except in what turned out to be the wrong crowd of people.

"He almost felt like people were just out to get him. He was made out to be something that truly, he wasn't when he wasn't intoxicated," said Morillo.

"He's a very nice kid, very open-hearted."

With files from Amy Dodge

now