Weyburn reports 2 fatal overdoses in January, doubling its 2020 death total
WEYBURN -- 2020 was a deadly year for overdoses in communities across Saskatchewan, and now just 28 days into 2021, Weyburn has already seen more fatal overdoses than last year.
The Saskatchewan Coroners Office believes there were 379 fatal drug overdoses in Sask. in 2020.
A total of 172 are confirmed overdoses while 207 are suspected overdoses.
Last year, the Weyburn had one reported fatal overdose. Less than a month into 2021, police are aware of two overdose deaths.
The Chief of the Weyburn Police Department said the community is seeing increasing addictions to more dangerous drugs like opioids.
“It's like putting a bullet into a revolver, spinning it and seeing whether or not it's going kill you or not,” Weyburn Police Chief Jamie Blunden said.
The first fatal overdose in Weyburn occurred on Jan. 13 just after midnight. Officials believe the man died of fentanyl. First responders administered Naloxone but the individual was unable to be revived.
In the same 24-hour period, a second man died of an overdose east of Weyburn. Police and EMS administered Naloxone but were unable to revive the man.
The next day, a third individual overdosed but first responders were able to revive them.
The Weyburn Police Service is using what it calls, a three-prong approach to help combat drug issues in the community.
It said the approach includes traditional police work such as finding the illegal substances and those who are supplying them.
The Chief said awareness and education is the second part of this initiative which includes talking to students and the younger generations. He said the third part is working with health services and getting those struggling the proper help they need.
He said everyone has a role to play and that is as simple as talking to individuals.
“I think it's about knowing everyone around you,” Blunden said. “Knowing your neighbors, your friends, your parents, the students that you're teaching. I think it's about not being shy to talk to people about it.”
Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lean Man First Nation is in the early phase of implementing its own addictions supports program. The First Nation had one reported fatal overdose in 2020.
The program will focus on traditional healing for those suffering from addictions.
“The connection works both ways,” Rolene Stone, an addictions counsellor on the Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lean Man First Nation, said. “People with alcohol and drugs, addiction can develop a mental illness. People with a certain mental illness tend to develop substance abuse problems.”
Stone said she can’t speak for everyone who is suffering from addictions, but in many cases, she has seen how trauma has playing a role in their struggles with substances.
“That's a cry for help,” Stone said. “I believe a majority of addiction is led from trauma in some way shape or form.”
The Government of Saskatchewan said it’s focused on improving mental health and addictions supports in the province. For its 2020-21 budget year, it invested $435 million into mental health and addiction services.
The government also appointed its first Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Swift Current MLA, Everett Hindley.
"I think each and every one of us has been impacted with respect to what COVID-19 has done in terms of changing our daily lives and our daily routines,” Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Everett Hindley said. “But for some folks, they really turn to areas where it impacts an addiction.”
Hindley said he acknowledges that some of the COVID-19 restrictions have resulted in changes to how people’s access to addictions services in the province.
"Some of the restrictions that we're dealing with, they're in place for a reason in order to protect our loved ones,” Hindley said.
“Make sure that our healthcare system, and our health care teams are doing fantastic work, but to make sure that they're not overwhelmed. The flipside of that is the mental health piece of that, and the impact that has because of some of the isolation that people experience."