‘Ottawa’ Chloe Kotval’s Family Call on Officials to Address Counterfeit Drug Problem and its “Devastating Impact”
The family of Chloe Kotval called on police and public officials on Sunday to immediately address the availability of “high grade counterfeit pharmaceuticals” in the community.
Releasing a statement hours before her funeral, the grieving family remembered Kotval as a “well-loved” and “warm” person who was cherished by her friends before losing her life far too soon.
“Our beloved daughter, Chloe, was a sweet girl adored by family and friends for her warmth, good nature and energy. This week, we have become even more aware of how well-loved she was through the outpouring of support by the community, the schools and services,” Kotval’s family said in a statement released to the Citizen.
“Our family is deeply grateful for every kind gesture of support, large or small. The presence of high grade counterfeit pharmaceuticals in our community, and their devastating impact on families, is a serious issue that needs to be addressed at a broader scale.”
Kotval, 14, died on Valentine’s Day from an apparent drug overdose. It is still unclear what type of drug led to her death or where she had obtained the drug. The family has said the teen’s death was the result of taking a pharmaceutical drug of unknown origin.
Her death came the day after Ottawa police and Ottawa Public Health issued a public warning about counterfeit prescription drugs they suspect have caused “recent life-threatening overdoses” in Ottawa. The alert pointed out that counterfeit pills can be made to appear nearly identical to prescription opioids such as OxyContin and Percocet.
The family’s call for a greater spotlight to be placed on the counterfeit drug issue came as a Kanata man released an open letter detailing his own struggle with teen drug issues.
Sean O’Leary’s 16-year-old daughter, Paige, struggles with addiction issues. It’s a topic that needs to be better addressed by the public, he says.
“What hasn’t been reported as of yet is that Chloe Kotval was the third Kanata teenager to die of a drug overdose in the last eight weeks,” he writes in his open letter. “The two other children that have died were a 17-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy. Sadly the deaths that have occurred are only the beginning. If you look at statistics from any other communities where the kids started getting hooked on counterfeit opioids the prognosis for our community and our children does not look promising.”
In an interview on Sunday, O’Leary said his letter prompted more than 40 Kanata families struggling with teenagers addicted to drugs to reach out to him in the hope of raising the profile of this issue.
“These kids are doing everything to make sure that we don’t talk to their friends’ parents,” O’Leary said. “All of us parents are living in this nightmare by ourselves. There are 40 families of addict kids in Kanata and if there are 40 (families) all watching out for someone’s daughter or son, there’s more of a chance of keeping them alive.”
O’Leary said he hopes to capitalize on the new-found support to create a group of parents who are dealing with drug-abuse issues at home in an effort to begin to understand where the problem is coming from and how the community can address it.
He also said he hopes to use the collective voice of the affected families to lobby government for more access to treatment for teenagers who are struggling with substance-abuse issues.
He said some sort of clinic for teenagers is urgently needed.
“On Jan. 22, I grabbed my daughter off the streets — she’d been doing (Percocet) for three days. We called the paramedics, got her to CHEO, and the poor paramedics looked at me and said, ‘I’m sorry the detox beds are full. There’s nothing we can do for you. You’re on your own.’ ”
O’Leary said the message he’s hearing from other parents of affected teens is eerily similar.
He said, while there are spots in clinics for the rehabilitation of habitual drug users, getting the teens through the detoxification process so they can attend those clinics is where the health-care system breaks down. He said people are left to deal with that in their homes and that other programs in Ottawa, such as those offered by the Ottawa Withdrawal Management Centre, are geared toward people over the age of 16. A similar program at the Royal Ottawa Hospital only has 12 beds.
Officials from CHEO were not available Sunday to comment about the situation at the hospital.
According to a technical report released in June by the City of Ottawa called Problematic Substance Use in Ottawa, officials estimate that as many as 46,900 people in Ottawa are using illicit drugs (excluding cannabis) or opioids taken for non-medical purposes. The report also states that since 2009 two-thirds of all “unintentional overdose deaths” in the city were due to opioids such as fentanyl and oxycodone (the active ingredient in the drug Percocet). In 2014, city officials recorded 36 drug overdose deaths. That number climbed to 48 in 2015. Statistics for 2016 are not yet available.
O’Leary said he hopes any action taken as the result of the pleas of families such as his will be aimed at preventing other teenagers from suffering the same fate as Kotval.
The popular teen’s funeral was held at the Garden Chapel of Tubman Funeral Homes on Richmond Road in Nepean. The funeral home added overflow seating in neighbouring rooms as hundreds of Kotval’s friends, family members and school mates filled into the building to standing room only.
Hundreds of balloons — bright green and purple (Chloe’s favourite colours) — floated in the funeral home’s rooms, each with a photo of Kotval attached to its ribbon.