A town that does care
More than 300 get together in New Waterford to discuss mental health and drug addictions crisis
Tears, devastating stories and standing ovations were all part of an emotional town meeting in New Waterford Tuesday night.
More than 300 people packed the New Waterford fire hall, proving that residents not only care about the issues of lack of resources for mental health and drug addictions but are determined to see something done about it.
“The town needs help,” said Doug MacLeod of River Ryan, accompanied by wife Pattie-Anne MacLeod, when asked why he was there.
Wendy Desrosiers of New Waterford said she was there because there is a problem and something has to be done about it.
“There’s too many young people dying.”
Debbie Campbell of
New Waterford, who lived in Alberta for
17 years, and moved back four years ago, said the problem is out West as well as home.
“The problem is not just New Waterford, it’s everywhere,” she said.
The town hall meeting was organized by the A Town That Cares group, spearheaded by Buddy Penney and John Bisson, after the death of Evan Webber, 29 on May 6. Webber was Penney’s nephew and the best friend of Bisson’s son.
“Our objective tonight is to get the community involved, to set up some kind of platform towards seeing a mental health/ addiction cente in the CBRM,” Penney said.
At least 100 people had filed in as much as half an hour early.
“It shows they are in it with us for the long haul,” Bisson said.
Coun. Kendra Coombes was the MC for the evening and asked that, with an election going on, the meeting not to be used to promote a political agenda. “There is no place for political agenda when our children are dying.”
Dale Jollota, of Dartmouth, who has family in Glace Bay and Dominion, had the audience in tears while speaking of the Olivia Jollota Memorial Trust she created in memory of her daughter Olivia, an honour student who died at age 15 after a hydromorphone overdose, to raise awareness of the dangers of prescription drugs and how those selling or giving away their prescription pain pills need to be held accountable.
“There is nothing in this world that can prepare you for finding your child in their bed dead.”
Tom Blanchard, executive director of Talbot House, an addiction recovery centre in Frenchvale, said there is a crisis and it’s not just opiates, but all drugs.
“In the last month and a half I’ve been at six funerals,” he said.
“The last one was a week ago when a mother buried her 10year old daughter to cancer and she buried her last daughter at 29 because of drug addiction.”
Blanchard urged the community to come together.
“I don’t think we can ever rid the community of drugs but as a community we can make it tough.”
Rob Mulloy of the Get Prescription Drugs Off The Street group said the biggest contributor to people using opiates was the prescription and overprescription of opiates, saying that criminals are targeting these people and drug dealers are buying prescriptions.
Dr. Venkata Puppala of Sydney, who joined the A Town That Cares group that is concerned over the depth of the problem, said a mental health/ drug addiction centre is needed.
“We have the plans, we have the blueprints, we have the people motivated, we just need approval from elected officials to make this happen,” he said.
“Once funding is approved, we could have a facility up and running in three months.”
Puppala, who received his masters in public health degree in Kentucky and did his residency in Buffalo under Richard Blondell, a well-known expert in the field of mental health, said each of the four ERs in the CBRM is spending $5,000 per day dealing solely with drug overdoses and mental health issues.
“If you take the four ERs, that’s close to $20,000 per day and over a year it’s close to $8 million.”
“With the $8 million what we spend on ER visits alone in the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, we could have a facility with 25-50 beds.”
He said the mental/health/ drug addiction facility now in the basement of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital is not a good place for an addict to make life-changing choices.
“There is no followup on him. Once he’s done detox he’s out the door.”
Ashley McKenzie of Sydney, formerly of New Waterford, listens during the town hall meeting organized by the A Town That Cares group at the New Waterford fire hall Tuesday night. More than 300 people packed into the fire hall, determined to see a solution to the lack of resources for mental health and drug addictions in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
Pattie-Anne MacLeod and her husband. Doug MacLeod, of River Ryan, listen during a town hall meeting organized by the A Town That Cares group at the New Waterford fire hall Tuesday, to deal with the serious issue of lack of resources for mental health and drug addictions in the community but also across the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Doug said they were attending the meeting because “the town needs help.”