‘Ottawa’ Hundreds of Parents Seek Answers as Police Confirm Kanata Teen Died from Fentanyl
Hours after police linked the fatal overdose of a 14-year-old Kanata girl to the deadly drug fentanyl, hundreds of parents gripped by fear gathered with city leaders on Monday night to learn more about how to shield their kids from the lethal wave of opioids.
Dr. Isra Levy, the city’s chief medical officer, told the crowd there are no “cookbook solutions” and said his team has not been passive as it tracked the “wave” from the West Coast to Ottawa, where it is now in every pocket of the city and beyond its rural edges.
“I wish that we had answers,” Levy said. “I wish we weren’t here.”
Deputy police Chief Steve Bell told the parents at the Kanata recreation centre that the force has been investigating fentanyl cases for 12 months.
Bell also told the crowd police can’t rid the streets of fentanyl without everyone’s help.
Dozens of addiction and treatment experts lined up and fielded question after question at an information session organized by Coun. Allan Hubley.
“The whole point of this is so parents can have an informed discussion with their children,” Hubley told the Citizen. “And then there’s enforcement, where if you know of someone who is dealing this, then report them before another child dies.”
The town hall was organized after the Valentine’s Day death of 14-year-old Chloe Kotval. Police on Monday confirmed they had linked her death to counterfeit pills that contained fentanyl.
Kotval’s was the second overdose death of a west-end teenager since New Year’s Eve. Police believe Kotval thought she was taking prescription Percocet and unwittingly consumed fentanyl. The pills she took were marked Percocet 5, but police believe they were counterfeit.
Teslin Russell, 18, was found dead on Dec. 31, and police investigating her overdose death, have not yet received toxicology results. But they suspect she also consumed counterfeit pills.
The deaths have prompted a “critical” city-wide discussion on opioid drug use, especially among teens.
Chief Charles Bordeleau, in his first public comments on that the deaths, called them tragic, adding: “I feel terrible for the parents and the families and the entire community that’s going through this.”
Bordeleau said Ottawa police knew that fentanyl, coming from China, would make its way to this city after its lethal effects had been felt elsewhere in Canada, especially in British Columbia.
Police made the largest fentanyl seizure in Ottawa history in mid-February, taking nearly 9,000 pills off the street. Bordeleau appealed to the public to give police information on who is supplying counterfeit pills and fentanyl in the city.
Bordeleau said that if police can trace counterfeit pills involved in a specific death to drug traffickers, those dealers could potentially face stiffer charges beyond drug trafficking. Police will continue to target traffickers, but Bordeleau said that work isn’t as important as public education.
“We want to make sure parents and kids have the information at hand to recognize what to look for, but also what to do and what are the agencies out there that can provide them support to get off these (drugs),” he said.
“There’s some work yet to be done in our community.”
Police are working with Ottawa Public Health, paramedics and the community to educate families and children about the dangers of the “huge risks associated with taking these types of illegal substances,” he said.
“Education about the dangers of these drugs, prevention, harm reduction and solid treatment programs are needed in order for us to tackle this issue in our community,” Bordeleau said.
But even with that effort, the chief warned, the problem is complex: “The reality is that we may see more deaths.”
Bordeleau said a man in his 20s died from a suspected overdose in the downtown area on the weekend, signalling to police that fatal opioid use isn’t just a west-end issue and isn’t only affecting teens.
Frontline officers have been briefed on what they need to do to help the public, Bordeleau said.
The force is also looking at how best to deploy naloxone — a drug that acts as an antidote to an opioid overdose — to front-line officers. Bordeleau, as president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, has called on the province to fund naloxone for every front-line officer in Ontario.
The City of Ottawa is also looking into equipping firefighters with the overdose antidote, and paramedics have asked the province to double the number of doses from two to four that each ambulance carries.