'All I want is some help': Advocates say more solutions are needed as drug overdoses in Regina continue to soar
REGINA -- During the first three months of 2021, the Regina Police Service (RPS) said there has been 39 apparent overdose deaths, compared to 12 deaths in the same time period last year.
One of those was Mo Hasting’s cousin, Steven McInnes. Hasting said she texted McInnes the week before he died.
“On March 24th, he says, ‘I’m just having trouble trying to get out of this depression, it’s got me spinning. Staying clean, but that’s it,’” Hasting said, reading McInnes’s text to her.
Hastings said McInnes went on to ask her if she knew if a detox centre was taking people in.
“He said, ‘All I want is some help.’”
McInnes never ended up getting into a detox centre. He died of an overdose on April 3.
“I’ve lost quite a few people to the overdoses of fentanyl in the last few weeks,” Hastings said. “It’s hard to see the children that are impacted by parents dying because they didn’t get the help.”
Between January 1 and March 31, 2021, RPS said there have been 454 overdose events.
“This continues to be a challenge that we are seeing daily in our city,” Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said during Tuesday’s Board of Police Commissioners meeting.
All Nations Hope Network’s Margaret Kisikaw Piyesis said the pandemic has made the problem worse.
“Places have been shutting down their services since the beginning of COVID, and people aren’t able to gather and look for that support,” said Kisikaw Piyesis.
She said critical services -- like All Nations Hope -- have remained open throughout the pandemic, but they need more support.
“We need to really look for solutions for people who are actively injecting,” said Kisikaw Piyesis. “Otherwise, the government is going to end up paying a lot more in the long run.”
Earlier this year, the province approved an overdose prevention site at the Friendship Centre in Regina, but didn’t give it any additional funding. The province said it is trying to expand supports.
“On the addiction side, it's roughly $62 million into addictions this year. There's a portion of that funding for harm reduction supports. We've done a number of things but it's imperative that we try to get to some of these implemented as quickly as we can,” said Everett Hindley, the minister for mental health and additions.
Hastings said funding needs to go to rehab and detox centres, along with safe consumption sites.
“The wait lists at detox are months-long. When people need help, they need it now,” she said. “And then when we do get people into rehab, they can only take eight people at a time. The demand is far more than that.”
But until more funding happens, Hastings is asking anyone who uses drugs to stay safe and make sure they know what it is they may be taking.
“Everybody has a choice to make, and hopefully you know that people are here to help you, if you want to help yourself,” said Hastings.