A Collingwood woman wants answers into her daughter’s death, which she believes was from purple heroin.
Darlene Loucks said her daughter, Priscilla Rowbotham, died after an overdose at a Collingwood hotel in March.
However, that’s about all she knows. She has sent letters to the coroner’s office asking for the toxicology and autopsy reports, but has been told the death is still under investigation.
Loucks told Simcoe.com she believes Rowbotham had heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil in her system; those drugs are also in what’s known as purple heroin. She said this was told to her during conference calls with the coroner.
“I’m thinking it’s that purple heroin,” she said. “All those things were mentioned to me verbally.”
Collingwood OPP announced on July 31 they had found purple heroin in Collingwood and said a small grain was powerful enough to kill someone. OPP Const. Martin Hachey said police were not releasing details surrounding discovery of the drugs.
Loucks said it was “disheartening” to read that report, and that she is frustrated with the lack of answers.
She has filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) regarding her interactions with investigating officer.
She has also made a complaint to the Death Investigation Oversight Council for Ontario and is also hoping for an inquest.
A June 8 response from the oversight council said the investigation is ongoing and her request would be considered once the investigation had been completed.
Cheryl Mahyr from the Office of the Chief Coroner said they are unable to release information but the investigation is ongoing.
The issues of opioid use is on the rise in the community.
According to Collingwood Deputy Fire Chief Dan Thurman, the department has responded to 40 overdose cases since June.
“We had five in a 24-hour span a few weeks ago,” he said.
All of the fire trucks are equipped with naloxone kits, which are also available at drug stores and can temporarily reverse and opioid overdose.
“It takes two to three minutes to go through their system and it’s only good for about 30 minutes,” Thurman said. “Because you’re brain is telling you not to breath, it goes into the system and allows you to breath again.”
Chief Ross Parr said using them is the last resort.
He said firefighters, who respond to all medical calls, have received training from the County of Simcoe paramedics and have a series of procedures they are required to follow when dealing with an overdose.
“We follow medical directives,” Parr said. “The first thing isn’t to do that (naloxone) … Oxygen administration is No. 1. “
Parr said all full-time firefighters in Collingwood have received training, as they were previously going to medical calls without that knowledge.
“I’ve got to take every reasonable precaution to protect our workers,” Parr said. “We want to make sure we’re on the same page with the paramedics.”
Parr said firefighters from Wasaga Beach and Clearview Township have received the same training.
Over the last 18 months, Collingwood General & Marine Hospital has seen 43 visits to its emergency department related to opioid use. The hospital said there has been very little change in these numbers from the first six months of 2018 and the same period in 2017.
Hachey told Simcoe.com that the Collingwood OPP has laid 10 charges for opioid possession so far in 2018.
Thurman said the issue continues to grow. In speaking with fire department colleagues and doctors from across Ontario, it’s an issue in a lot of communities.
“It’s heading this way,” he said.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit released its opioid strategy last month.
The strategy would roll out on a short and long-term basis, with short-term projects being rolled out in 2018 and long-term activities implemented by 2020.
Some of the programs include improved needle exchange programs, the implementation of a rapid access addictions medicine program, and greater collaboration between law enforcement agencies.
“We have seen there was a slow worsening of the opioid impact in our region and in Ontario as a whole through the 2000s,” Dr. Lisa Simon, co-chair of the steering committee, said. “It’s really the 2017 data over the 2016 data where we’ve seen this grow exponentially.”
Loucks said her daughter was seeking counselling for bipolar disorder in Collingwood.
Loucks wants to know what happened inside the hotel room, how the investigation was handled by police, and circumstances surrounding her death. She feels the coroner considers her daughter’s death “another statistic,” and she’s not satisfied.
“I am a grieving mother and have grieving family,” she said in a letter to the death oversight council. “I ask for justice, I ask for answers.”
Loucks has started a go fund me page to help with legal fees. You can find more information
More information about the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy is available at .
Editor’s note: A correction was made to this story on Aug. 10. Priscilla Rowbotham, was receiving counseling for her bipolar disorder not her addictions. Simcoe.com regrets the error.