Moms Stop the Harm comes to Windsor, rallies for downtown overdose prevention site

A Canadian advocacy group of mothers who have lost children to drug addiction took part in a rally organized by Windsor OPS at city hall.

Canadian advocacy group is calling for decriminalization of drug use

Moms Stop the Harm's Windsor chapter took part in a rally, organized by Windsor OPS, in front of city hall Friday afternoon. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

A Canadian advocacy group of mothers whose children struggled or died because of drug addiction called on city hall to open an overdose prevention site in Windsor. The rally was organized by Windsor OPS.

A recently opened chapter of Moms Stop the Harm in Windsor asked for the new downtown site during a rally on Friday afternoon where dozens of people held signs scrawled with messages like "naloxone saves lives" and "OPS saves lives."

"There's a lot of suffering families in Windsor," said Lisa Whitehead, one of the leaders of Windsor's chapter of Moms Stop the Harm. "They really don't have anybody to talk to. People turn away from them."

Chapter representative Lisa Whitehead says she has been trying to help her son with his addiction for the past 10 years. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Moms Stop the Harm chapters across the country have been lobbying all levels for the decriminalization of drug users, calling for a co-ordinated response to the opioid crisis, and better training for frontline medical professionals. 

Whitehead said one of the things the group, which formed in Windsor last week, will be doing is to hand out naloxone kits and teach people how to use them.

At the Windsor Police Services Board meeting Thursday, Chief Al Frederick voiced his opposition against a supervised injection site in the city's downtown area, saying other communities have seen an increase in crime near the sites.

He also reaffirmed his commitment to not having police officers carry naloxone kits. The life-saving medication can temporarily block the effects of opioids and prevent overdose deaths.

Opioid crisis

Overdose deaths have been climbing in recent years — killing nearly 4,000 Canadians in 2017 alone, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The rise in deaths in the last few years seems to be driven by illegal fentanyl, as well as overdoses resulting from using other drugs — including alcohol, benzodiazepines, cocaine or methamphetamines — in combination with opioids, national data suggests. 

A spring study found opioid-related deaths tripled in Ontario between 2001 and 2015. 

'We need this site'

The chief's sentiments raised issues for Brandon Bailey from Windsor Overdose Prevention Society.

Not only does he think Windsor needs a supervised injection site, he believes there isn't enough time to wait for one to be approved. Instead, he would like there to be an overdose prevention site set up in the interim.

"We need this site and we need it now," said Bailey. "We need it today."

Brandon Bailey with Windsor Overdose Prevention Society says the city needs an overdose prevention site immediately. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Whitehead has plans to do more advocacy work in the community and "become a part of the solution."

She said she has been trying to help her son with his addiction for more than 10 years. He uses crystal meth and has been "going in and out of jail" for the last few years, she says. 

"It's like a revolving door," said Whitehead. Meanwhile, she was also an addict ten years ago before she got clean.

"I turned my life around, stopped using, and now I'm giving back to the community and showing them yes, it is possible to find recovery."

With files from Sanjay Maru