Sudbury’s Opiate Epidemic

Residents of the City of Greater Sudbury are questioning community leaders and their abilities when it comes to the opiate epidemic locally. For the last 7 years, I’ve personally been advocating against local organizations such as SACY “Sudbury Action Center for Youth” and our Sudbury’s Health Unit. When you personally watch the numbers shoot up from 5,000 to 12,000 then 2 million needles distributed annually you start to wonder why it’s happening so fast in so little time. 5 years isn’t that much of a gap considering 5 years ago our city distributed 12-15 thousand needles then in 2019 the city distributed 2+ million needles. Back in 2017 i did a video that received over 25,000 facebook views when i addressed the neglect of Sudbury’s Public Health Unit handing needles, meth rigs and crack pipes to kids under 17 and at that time the city pushed out 1.4 million needles. Two years later, add 1 million more needles to that count.

You can imagine my frustration when i found out that our local youth center was involved with the distribution of needles and “safe tools” for addicts. When it comes to prevention and using harm reduction as a outlet to give safe tools to lessen the spread of disease, i understand the reasoning of it but again, we’re not 1985, it’s 2020 now. One thing i don’t agree with is how harm reduction has been handled in the last 7 years and what it’s contributing to the epidemic itself which enables users to continue to use and no real options for treatment. It’s basically creating new users.

Did you know that the current mandate has a mandatory needle exchange which isn’t being followed by local organizations and others across the country? Maybe if these organizations would follow the rules, our communities wouldn’t be in such dissaray.

When i first started to tackle the opiate epidemic, i spoke with city officials in the mayor’s office, i asked if we had a public safety officer to file a complaint regarding public safety due to excessive needles being left discarded in our downtown core. The end result was me being told that they would look into the matter and “NO” our city has no public safety officer to file complaints in regards to public safety. Wherever we turned to within the walls of Greater Sudbury to seek assistance on the matter, we were left with unanswered questions and basically ignored.

While advocating i started to hear stories of local volunteer groups going out to pickup needles across the city which seriously caught my attention. As the owner of Sudbury420 and also doing what we can for the community, we put together a group of awesome volunteers and contributed to the needle pickups. The first time out as a group, it definitely opened the eyes of many and realized just how bad this problem truly is.

Sudbury Action Centre for Youth gets funded $100,000 per year to operate a needle pickup program which in my opinion is a waste of tax payers dollars when all the other community groups pickup the majority of needles which is volunteer based. My mother operated a youth center when i was young and there was no needle hand outs, no crack pipe or meth rigs given to kids either. Our youth center did stuff with our youth up until government made cut backs. Now government funds youth centers to hand out these rigs to kids? Makes ya wonder right?

In late 2019, my wife and I decided to make a statement about the needle epidemic. We walked in the public health unit in the Rainbow Mall, my wife threw a bag of discarded garbage and syringes on the counter and told the administrator to go out there and start picking up the needles as many are fed up. I streamed it live on Facebook which many locals made up their own assumptions of how it all went down. It created much controversy with many. On a that note, i do want to say we apologize for that incident, we know we could have approached it in a entirely different way. In the end the public health unit decided to put a no trespass order and now banned from every health unit across Northern Ontario. My question simply is, why all the other health units? Yea, we did something not so cool at Sudbury’s location, but ban us from all of them? Sorta makes ya wonder if organizations as such use that to silence those who voice concerns against them. Either way, we learned from it.

Over the last 6-8 months, the local Health Unit with their sister organizations working within “Harm Reduction” have been lobbying to get a “Safe Injection” site for Sudbury. What they failed to ignore was the 3 online polls done on Facebook which heavily favored those against a injection site that the Health Unit is trying to force on the city. It went so far that some who work directly with local organizations handing needles out started to support a local group operating a illegal safe injection site in a park on Louis street. These organizations and those operating the illegal site flat out ignored local tenants with children and a disregard for public safety.

Did you know? Ottawa started with 1 safe injection site. 5 years later they now have 4 sites. Did you know? Many of these consumption sites are not well maintained and account for many overdoses at their facilities.

We’ve been lobbying the Ford government for 2 things. One is to make funds available to open treatment centers over safe consumption sites and the other is asking the government to be open to new compassionate treatment programs such as those who offer ways to get off the needle and opiates with the use of cannabis and various forms of the plant.

The last 2 years my team worked with 47 people who used needles, various opiate based drugs, methadone and we treated them with cannabis edibles, drinks, extracts. Out of 47 individuals, 36 successfully quit these substances. We figured out how to combat the sickness withdrawals which is the #1 problem to battle when someone withdraws from opiates and synthetic aggregates. To this day we’re continuing to help others via this method.

One thing i don’t understand and many have shared this question, why isn’t the health units and local groups handing out needles educating addicts to stop discarding their trash all over the place. I know tax payers have been on the hook for sharpie containers being given by the city with the city’s diligence setting up yellow bins across town to curb the problem. At least educate addicts since we have no treatment centers.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with the safe consumption site application that the local health unit has applied for considering the majority of this city doesn’t want it in our back yard.

The last 5 years have been something else for Greater Sudbury. Crime rates have shot up, addictions is growing out of control and yet our city, provincial and federal officials only offer us band aid solutions instead of tackling the problem head on.

Did you know? Many opiate dealers who get arrested walk thru a “Catch & Release” program by our justice system. In the one day out the next on bail. Again our system is broken. There’s more to this story which will be published at a later date running along side another expose we’re currently investigating.

Jason LaFaci