A Kanata, Canada, father of a teenage girl who is a drug addict penned an open letter about the struggle his family faces, and their fears for her life.
Sean O'Leary initially sent the letter to "15 or so parents of addicts and other concerned people both in the mental health field and friends with whom [he] shared some of [his] families struggles." In order to verify that it was him who wrote the letter, he shared it on Facebook.
O'Leary was prompted to write the letter after seeing a news report of a 14-year-old girl in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa, dying from a drug overdose. He mentions in the letter that she is not the first in the community in the last eight weeks; a 17-year-old girl and a 16-year-old also allegedly lost their lives to drugs.
"My sixteen year old daughter Paige is also a drug addict/abuser," O'Leary wrote. "I feel so sad for the parents of the children that have died. But even worse than the sadness I have for them is the fear I/we and many others live with every day that is so real. My first thought every morning is to check that Paige is alive. It is a nightmare of a way to live life especially when you have other children and have to try to make their lives as normal as possible."
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Paige has been an addict for 20 months, and given the family's limited resources, they "have dealt with it the best" they could, even when a 17-year-old boy was found dead in their garage.
"Thankfully I arrived when I did and that one kid was not high and she had called 911, we performed CPR, eventually got his heart going and then the paramedics arrived," O'Leary wrote, adding that he knows of eight Kanata teens who have overdosed in the last two months.
"Sadly the deaths that have occurred are only the beginning," he wrote. "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."
O'Leary wrote that he has spent "thousands upon thousands of dollars on psychologists, counselors, etc." and Paige spent 10 weeks at a youth treatment center.
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"I have locked her at home, chased her around, grabbed her off the streets, walked in to people's homes uninvited to take my daughter out of there, we have had paramedics and police to our home numerous times," he wrote. "But here we sit not knowing day to day whether our beautiful little girl will be alive tomorrow."
O'Leary does not know the answer to stopping Paige's addiction, but says he knows that she and others need help.
"My goal is not to try and solve the drug problem," he wrote. "It has been going on for many decades but never before right now have the drugs been indiscriminately taking our children's lives. I do not know how many families are suffering the same fate as us right now but I know there are many."
In the letter, O'Leary mentioned that he wanted to have a meeting with parents of addicts/abusers: "We the parents of these kids and future kids need to unite for ourselves and for our kids." He included details on where the meeting would take place Feb. 23 and asked people to share the information. Around 200 people attended the meeting, according to the Ottawa Citizen.
The discussion, of which the evening's MC, Jennifer Barton, referred to as a response to a crisis, covered how to talk to teens about drug use, use a Naloxone kit, perform CPR, and provided information on what treatment resources are available locally.
According to a report by the City of Ottawa, two-thirds of all unintentional overdose deaths in the city since 2009 were from opioids such as fentanyl and oxycodone. In 2014, 36 drug overdose deaths were reported, climbing to 48 in 2015.
O'Leary wants to see a detox center for youth open in the city and has spoken with local politicians regarding it.