As overdose numbers continue to climb in Maple Ridge, police and health services plead with drug users to be more wary of their actions.
Ridge Meadows RCMP tweeted on June 25 that they had responded to five reports of overdoses over the space of two days.
As this was of some concern, they shared a Fraser Health overdose alert saying there have been a significant increase in overdoses in the city over the past several weeks.
Local RCMP media relations officer Const. Julie Klaussner, said police are encouraging people to call the police if they feel anyone is in trouble.
On June 23-24: RM RCMP had 5 reports of overdoses. These can be mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends. If you see something say something. Please refer to the release from September regarding the Good Samaritan Act. https://t.co/JYboSoAd1c…@Fraserhealth pic.twitter.com/2Hafhp37Tk
— Ridge Meadows RCMP (@RidgeRCMP) June 25, 2020
“The Ridge Meadows RCMP wanted to share the messaging of Fraser Health and encourage anyone to come forward and report an incident if you believe that someone is potentially overdosing,” Klaussner said, before referencing an article written last year by the local officer in charge, Jennifer Hyland.
“The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act was created to alleviate your fears.
“Your friends, their parents, your parents and everyone around you will see that your brave choice to call and save a life outweighs everything else.”
The act referenced provides some legal protection for individuals who seek emergency help during an overdose. It applies to anyone seeking emergency support during an overdose, including the person experiencing the overdose.
It can protect from charges for possession of a controlled substance, as well as breach of conditions regarding simple possession of controlled substances.
Doug Sabourin, interim executive director for Alouette Addictions Services Society in Maple Ridge, said while COVID-19 is of great concern, now is not the time to forget about the opioid epidemic ravaging the province.
“We still have huge number of overdose deaths,” he said. “I understand in the month of May we surpassed the overdose deaths from last year.”
Sabourin blames adulterated street drugs for many of the issues since this year.
“There’s no safe supply of drugs for habitual users,” he said, adding with the closing of the international borders, some drugs like heroin are not being imported into Canada, so street dealers are adding more powerful narcotics like fentanyl to their product in order to stay in business.
Added isolation due to COVID-19 restrictions has also proved to be quite dangerous for local drug users.
“One of the unwritten rules of drug use is don’t do drugs alone,” Sabourin said.
“With social isolation it appears to us that people are doing drugs by themselves too often, so if they do get in trouble, there’s no-one around to help them, which is a really big deal.”
Alouette Addictions are distributing harm reduction supplies at unprecedented levels, Sabourin pointed out.
“Clean needles, alcohol swipes, condoms; all these things that people need to ensure they’re not hurting themselves even more than they already are with drugs,” he said, adding the society considers itself an essential service.
“We’re trying really hard to keep people safe and that’s a really difficult task because sometimes people are their own worst enemies.”