The addiction and opioid overdose problem in Sudbury has prompted the creation of a new grassroots social media and awareness campaign that includes former addicts and loved ones of people who have overdosed.
Together, they are trying to raise awareness and offer support for the countless Sudburians who are struggling with addiction.
The site is on Facebook. It's called Silent No More!!! Sudbury's Overdose Epidemic. The page has been up for nearly two weeks (since Oct. 3), but already nearly 3,000 members have joined.
Darren Ransom, 34, one of the organizers is a former addict. He is recovering, but said the problem in Sudbury is not getting any better.
"I'm a recovering opioid addict. I was an addict for 14 years. So, God actually saved my life. It's not the same story with everybody. That's just how I got better," said Ransom.
"So we're just trying to raise awareness about the opiate crisis and we're trying to get people a safe place to share.”
Ransom said one of the original ideas of the group was to stage a protest event to create more awareness, but with the pandemic restrictions it was decided that it was not the best idea at the time.
"And we just don't want to be the cause if one person got COVID because of the protest, we don't want to be that group," he added.
Ransom said the homeless problem in Sudbury is also a significant concern because people struggling with that can easily fall into addiction as they try to cope with their personal problems, problems that are only made worse by the misery of poverty.
"We want to start helping people get into recovery, bringing them to meetings, meeting them where they're at. Some people aren't ready to get better right now, but they still have needs as people," he said. “They can't be written off.”
Cassandra Ingham, 31, another founder of the page, said it has become a vital "information hub" and a "safe space" for people to share their troubles, to offer support to others and provide information on how to deal with sons or daughters or life partners struggling with their addictions.
"I was never an addict myself," said Ingham. "But my partner of almost 10 years struggled with opiates on and off. He passed away from an overdose on Aug. 15 of this year. And also, one of my brothers is currently struggling with opiate addiction right now. Any day now I am waiting for that call," said Ingham.
"Not only have I just lost my boyfriend, but I am on the verge of losing my baby-brother. This is not normal.
"All of us were kids at one point, just doing what kids do, partying and having fun and experimenting. It's what people did for decades, but now with opiates being introduced, half of those friends we were partying with in high school or just 10 years ago, have now passed on.
"That's sad. It's a national tragedy. Not only is it affecting substance users, but also the people around them," she said.
Ingham said she feels that Sudbury city council has failed the community and is not being aggressive enough to tackle the issue.
"Where we are stepping in to provide support and provide health, our city council isn't. Why is it that we're all aware, but nothing is being done? That's really sad.
"They're elected to protect us, to help us, to serve their communities, but they're not. They're failing in this aspect. It's not just substance users that are struggling, but now you're having children growing up without mothers, without fathers."
She said the problem has become a country-wide concern. Ingham quoted a Health Canada report that revealed from January 2016 until March 2020, more than 16,000 opioid-related deaths have occurred in Canada alone.
"That's a whole city's worth of people in just four years," said Ingham.
She said the Facebook page is seeking to get a message out to enough people that the community will demand more action and support serious change.
"We're tired of the substance users being vilified. We are tired of the low-level dealers being vilified. You know the government has to be accountable. The pharmaceutical companies have to be accountable. You know we're just the little people stuck in the crosshairs of this multi-billion dollar industry," said Ingham.
"That's not fair. It's really sad and really tragic. They're not the ones who have to bury their boyfriends. They're not the ones who are burying their little brothers."