We began last month with a bit of an opioid bombshell from Algoma Public Health.
The health unit’s stats project that by the end of the year more people will have died in opioid-related incidents than in any other previous year.
And days later, we heard from a local doctor who is rallying community members now to push for the appropriate resources, so that people who want to break free from opioids can find the help they need here.
"That is going to be our goal, to help these addicted people get treatment — and if that means lobbying the city, the province, or driving them to the hospital or whatever, these people need to get help,” said Dr. Paul Hergott.
Hergott said something that really stuck with me. It has been two years since the VICE/W5 documentary Steel Town Down: Overdose Crisis in the Soo rocked this community by laying bare for the entire nation our ugly struggle with addiction.
Yes, the Sault's singling out was done with the caveate that this city is but one of any number of similarly-struggling small cities across this country. But the fact remains that drugs were a massive problem here — moreso than man other places in Canada — and that year was the year the district set its previous record for opioid-related deaths.
In his interview with SooToday’s James Hopkin, Hergott wondered aloud: What would the documentarians make of the situation the city is in now?
That’s a good question.
By APH’s numbers, the death rate is clearly far worse than it was when the cameras rolled into town. Almost twice as bad. Crime seems not to have abated.
But why is that? Is it a lack of solutions? What role does the pandemic play? Who is trying new solutions here and what solutions are being tried in other places facing the same issue?
These are questions we are setting out to answer as SooToday’s newsroom makes its first foray into what is called ‘solutions’ journalism.
The idea behind solutions journalism is that it's important not just to sound the alarm or to rail against the problems that ail society, but to deliberately try to understand the work that’s being done to solve those problems.
This is not to cover up the unseemly side of the community, or to gloss over the bad, but to instead face those issues head on and look for the practical solutions. This includes the solutions being tried here, but also elsewhere.
Right now we’re working on several stories based on this approach, including a story that will shed light on some of the people lost to addiction. By the next time I write, we should have something to show for it. Stay tuned.