Following news that 37-year-old drug squad cop, Const. Michael Thompson, died of a fentanyl overdose in April, advocates are calling for more action on the opioid crisis. Constable Michael Thompson, a member of the Toronto Police Service Drug Squad, died of a fentanyl overdose. Toronto harm-reduction advocates are calling on the police and government to do more to prevent opioid overdoses, in the wake of news that the April death of respected Toronto cop, Const. Michael Thompson, was ruled a fentanyl overdose .
“Overdose deaths impact everyone,” said Leigh Chapman, a registered nurse and one of the founders of Toronto Overdose Prevention Society. “We’re losing people in their prime and this is going to affect us for generations to come.”
“At the police level, I expect that they shouldn’t take so long to report on this,” she said.
Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said Friday that the reason for the delay in reporting was so that the police could carry out internal investigations and reviews about the wellbeing of the force.
Thompson, who spent more than a decade as a Toronto police officer, was 37 and on the drug squad at the time he died.
Colleagues remember him as an engaged team player, who took pride in wearing a Toronto police uniform.
Toronto police said the amount of fentanyl found in Thompson’s system indicated he had ingested the drug, although it’s not clear how he acquired it in the first place.
The news comes as the opioid crisis appears to be getting worse; Toronto police responded to 2,120 overdose calls as of October, 470 more than the same time last year. A recent report showed two people in Ontario die every day from opioid related causes.
Toronto mayor John Tory Friday called the mounting number of overdose deaths in Toronto “a crisis.”
“It’s symptomatic of a much larger problem that we have, which, I think, we’re trying our best to address, but that work is never finished,” said Tory, who is a member of the police services board.
Chapman offered condolences to Toronto police for the “preventable tragedy” of Thompson’s death.
“It’s shocking . . . that the police force have lost one of their own and yet they are not compelled to act,” she said, referring to the fact that Toronto police have not yet committed to carry the harm-reduction drug Naloxone, while other police forces have.
Members of the police board Thursday discussed the possibility of equipping officers with kits for Naloxone, which can reduce the effects of an opioid overdose temporarily.
The Ontario Provincial Police, and Peterborough, Barrie, and Durham Region officers carry Naloxone kits on the front lines.
“I think this case of this police officer, his tragic death, could be a tipping point for the police to actually look at the fact that there’s been a 28-per-cent increase in overdose deaths,” she said.
That starts with Naloxone, she said, but it must include a greater effort to destigmatize drug use and reduce the barriers for people to use drugs in safer ways.“The stigma just feeds into people hiding their drug use,” which furthers potential dangers, she said.“At the provincial and federal level, we need to be looking into overdose-prevention sites,” Chapman added. Her organization runs a supervised injection site in a tent at Moss Park. Toronto Public Health has opened one such official site, with two more to come.“(Thompson’s) is an all-too-common story, and it’s just heartbreaking and so preventable,” Chapman said. With files from Wendy Gillis Play VideoPlayLoaded: 0%Progress: 0%Remaining Time -0:00This is a modal window.Foreground — White Black Red Green Blue Yellow Magenta Cyan — Opaque Semi-OpaqueBackground — White Black Red Green Blue Yellow Magenta Cyan — […]
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