Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee of Haliburton County co-chair Andrew Hodson said he sees problems with what is available to vulnerable people.

The committee hosted a public discussion at the Lakeside Baptist Church Nov. 28 about substance abuse and how it can be addressed in Haliburton.

As people described their personal experiences and struggles getting help, Hodson said he understands that difficulty.

“When they do reach out and don’t get it, it’s just an absolute travesty,” Hodson, a worker with Four County Crisis, said. “We don’t have a homelessness shelter up here. We can do all the stuff in addictions but people don’t have a place to live.

“I’m incredibly worried about our county.”

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Traumatic grief specialist Yvette Perreault facilitated the event. She described the severity of deaths in the opioid crisis, with more than 12,000 since 2016 according to the Government of Canada.

“Society’s response is still hostile,” Perreault said. “It’s a crazy amount of numbers but you wouldn’t necessarily know that, because people aren’t necessarily up in arms about it.”

The Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland Drug Strategy said there were 145 confirmed opioidrelated emergency department visits in 2018, but the tri-county data could not be broken down further.

Minden’s Dr. Nell Thomas attended and said local data on overdoses has issues, as emergency departments may not log them if a patient reports a different issue. But she said based on her caseloads, she has “a lot of people who are suffering” from a variety of addictions.

She added although there are prescriptions to address opioid abuse, options are lacking for stimulant-type drugs such as cocaine. She said there are not many options, although efforts are being made to find solutions.

“We’re working to find safe alternatives for people,” Thomas said.

But people showed solidarity throughout the discussion and talked about ways to improve the situation.

“We’re in this together,” Perreault said. “There’s a vulnerability here but these conversations matter about how we’re going to take care of each other.”

“It has to be flipping over of our culture,” attendee Jean Schlicklin Tyler said. “It has to be a wake-up call.”

Hodson also identified waiting lists and transportation as issues. But he re-affirmed that housing is a bedrock needed to address substance abuse.

“It’s just fundamental in people’s basic support system,” Hodson said. “Offer them a home with dignity, somewhere they feel safe. I just don’t think any of the other stuff, the higher levels of needs can be addressed (without that).”

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Joseph Quigley is a staff writer with The Highlander. Joseph is always digging hard for news stories and covers all the latest happenings in the County of Haliburton. He believes in the importance of local news, finding more to every story and listening to marginalized voices. When he’s not working on news, Joseph finds himself getting all-too engaged in social media and cheering on his favourite Toronto Maple Leafs.