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Video: Three Sudburians share their lived experiences of losing loved ones during Overdose Awareness Week

A former drug dealer, a mother and a concerned resident's lives were forever changed

Mayor Brian Bigger declared August 26 - September 1 Overdose Awareness Week at a community event hosted by Réseau ACCESS Network on Monday.

Northwood Recovery, OAHAS, N'Swakamok Native Friendship Centre, Monarch Recovery Services, Sudbury Action Centre for Youth, the Canadian Mental Health Association and Public Health Sudbury and Districts were in attendance and all agreed that drug misuse in the city requires a collaborative community response.

Much is being done through Sudbury's Community Access Strategy, headed by Sudbury and Districts Public Health. The strategy has support from nearly 50 community partners and is endorsed by city council, the health unit and Greater Sudbury Police Services. 

Together, all seek to increase safety, improve outcomes and provide a range of services including treatment and harm reduction. The lived experiences of city residents whose lives have been touched by drug overdose remind us why these efforts are important and necessary.

A Grieving Mother

In 2013, 400 emergency medical services calls were made in Sudbury for drug overdoses. According to Richard Rainville, executive director of Réseau ACCESS Network, there were 96 opiod-related deaths within the service area of Sudbury and Districts Public Health between 2011 and 2016. 

Terry Jenkins lost her son Matthew last year. "I know that he had done heroin recently," Jenkins said. "It was his first time using a needle." Matthew was 21 years old when he died. 

A Concerned Resident

In 2013, 400 emergency medical services calls were made in Sudbury for drug overdoses. 

Naloxone can temporarily reverse an opioid (e.g. fentanyl) overdose. 861 Naloxone kits were distributed in Greater Sudbury throughout the 2017-18 fiscal year. In last four months alone, 512 kits have been distributed -- 60% of last year's total. 

Birgit Lingenberg used one of those kits to save a resident that overdosed in front of her building on Bruce Avenue. She believes that  Naloxone is the way to help people at this time.

"He was still alive but he was turning blue quite quickly," Lingenberg said. She administered Naloxone from the kit that she had and waited with the man until paramedics arrived. "By the time they got there he looked and acted totally normal. He was able to get himself onto the stretcher and I just said good luck to him and then I left."  

Residents can find information about what a Naloxone kit is, as well as how and where to get them free-of-charge by visiting the Government of Ontario's website, here:

A Former Drug Dealer

Derrick Derasp is serving a five-year prison sentence in relation to crimes he committed as a drug dealer. He was present at the Overdose Awareness Week event to talk about how he has contributed to drug deaths, and how the loss of his own loved ones changed his life and perspective.

"I was the person who contributed to support my habit and to provide myself with a better way of life. In that contribution, I was handed a five-year prison sentence and I continued to lose everything in my life because of drugs," Derasp said.

Two years into his sentence, Derasp said he intended to maintain his lifestyle upon release. Then, his father died from drug-related harms, followed by his brother, and finally, the mother of his children died by overdose on Fentanyl.

"We knew we weren't good together as partners but I loved her with all my heart. When she died, a part of me felt responsible," Derasp said. "She wasn't aware of that lifestyle until I presented her with it. A part of me feels guilty for her loss and the fact that she's not there."

Derasp said he wanted to provide his family with a better life, in the way that had been modelled to him by his father. Before his passing, Derasp's father was involved in "large-scale distribution." Ultimately, he said he knows he failed. 

"When I found out that she had died in one sense it was the worst thing that ever happened to me but in another it was the best because I was given the awareness that my kids are without a father and without a mother," Derasp said.

"The little bit that I have now came at the expense of that."

Derasp's children are no longer with him, and he respects this for the sake of their safety. "What keeps me going is the reminder of what I was, what I've been through, what I've lost and what I want," Derasp said. "What I want to gain in life is to live through those experiences of losses with experience of gains. I try to be a better person every day."