About 18 months ago, Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke made a promise to a grieving mother.
“I attended a funeral of someone I know, someone who is quite involved in the city, a wonderful person who lost her 32-year-old daughter” to the opioid crisis, said Clarke.
“I did commit to her at that time to doing what I could to host an educational forum so that some of the other families in the community wouldn’t have to experience the grief her family and other families have experienced.”
He is making good on that promise.
The mayor, in partnership with the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy (SMOS) and the Orillia Drug Strategy Task Group is hosting an Opioids and Other Drugs In Our Community Forum on Oct. 22.
The goal of the forum is to provide information, training and resources to educate the public about addictions.
Subject matter experts will discuss opioid use and respond to questions.
Information on community resources will be available.
Clarke said the opioid crisis is getting worse and, as a result, people in the community are dying.
“I’ve had an enlightening and compelling experience meeting a number of mothers over the last couple of years who have lost children to this crisis,” said Clarke.
“We are experiencing an issue within the City of Orillia around fentanyl, carfentanil and purple heroin to name a few of the opioids available on our streets,” said the mayor.
He said he has spoken to mayors of Midland and Barrie and noted those communities are experiencing similar issues.
“We are not isolated. It is rampant in Simcoe County and elsewhere in our province and beyond,” said Clarke, who notes the crisis cuts across social and economic classes.
He said education is a key weapon. Without education, more deaths are unavoidable.
As an example of the lethal power of the dreaded drug, Clarke said he learned that a very small dose of fentanyl - the equivalent of four grains of salt - is enough to kill someone.
“If that’s not bad enough, it’s the other issues that come with the drug trade that can cause a community and individuals grief,” said Clarke.
That’s why he is working with others to organize the forum.
“It’s an attempt to reach out to the community,” said Clarke, noting relevant stakeholders involved in the forum will include the Orillia Youth Centre, Youth Haven, SMOS, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, the OPP and the Orillia and Area Opioid and Other Drugs Strategy.
The Oct. 22 forum will be held in the council chamber at the Orillia City Centre from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.
The forum is free. And city councillors decided this week to provide free parking in Municipal Lot 6 and Lot 9 during the forum.
Lot 6 is located on the corner of Barrie Road and Andrew Street. Lot 9 is located on Andrew Street directly across from the main entrance of the City Centre.