June 23rd 2014 GPDOTS sent a letter to the Nova Scotia Minister of Justice, Lena Diab regarding our concern with overdose death investigation protocol and officer education in prescription drugs. We felt the need to voice our concerns after hearing repeated stories about families who lost loved ones to rx drug overdoses and experienced  delays, no investigations, botched investigations, and lack of communication from enforcement which has led to formal complaints. This letter was signed and endorsed by our Enforcement Consultant, Rob Mulloy, a recently retired RCMP officer who had been working on the front lines for over 25 years. The letter was also signed by two Directors who have personally experienced botched police investigations.

See full letter here : GPDOTS letter to the Minister of Justice

One month later GPDOTS received a reply and instead of seeking out more information in regards to our concerns or offering to pass these concerns onto a multi-disciplinary committee (which includes representation from law enforcement and staff from her department) focused on prescription drug abuse, the Minster informed us she believe’s that the RCMP and other policing agencies in Nova Scotia have policy, training and education to deal effectively with investigations related to prescription drugs.

GPDOTS would like to urge the public and professionals who share the same concerns as our organization to write or call Minister Diab and express your disappointment with her lack of interest in this important issue which is impacting communities across our province. The Minister’s contact information is as follows:

Department of Justice
4th Floor, 5151 Terminal Road
P.O. Box 7
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3J 2L6Phone: (902) 424-4044
Fax: (902) 424-0510
justmin@gov.ns.ca

July 19th 2014 Sarah Leopold, Corey Zwickers cousin and Kim Zwicker , Corey Zwickers aunt organized a spectacular washer toss tournament in honor of their loved one Corey Zwicker.  The event raised $1000.00 for GPDOTS to support our advocacy efforts. GPDOTS would like to thank everyone who came out to the Corey Zwicker Memorial Washer Toss and the organizers for their generous support!

President of GPDOTS Amy Graves accepting the $1000.00 donation from Sarah Leopold

Corey Zwicker of Windsor NS passed away at the age of 23 from an accidental overdose to hydromorphone and alcohol.

Corey Zwicker of Windsor NS passed away in 2013 at the age of 23 from an accidental overdose to hydromorphone and alcohol.

 

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When I think of the many memories of Joshua, I can’t help but smile”. “He was the most unique person and just so full of love and life.”

Joshua was the third of four children, with an older brother and sister and another younger brother. A happy-go-lucky, boisterous child, he grew into a teen and then a young man who was always laughing and smiling.

Joshua Ballard, Emma And Alex JoudreyJoshua loved his friends, his dirt bike and martial arts. He also loved music, recording his own rap CD at the age of 15. Many of his friends knew him as King Flippity, a name that actually came from his teen days of backyard wrestling with friends. He started as Mr. Flippity, but became King after a “world championship” win one day. His father made him a championship belt and, from that day forward, he was known as King Flippity.

To his family and many friends, Joshua seemed larger than life. He was a totally amazing, unique individual that never, ever judged anybody. He, like the rest of us in this world, had shortcomings. However, he would never judge or hold that against anybody ever in his life.

Joshua was diagnosed at a young age with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and Tourette’s syndrome. The OCD meant repetitive routines that were at times challenging. The Tourette’s caused vocal and motor ticks which led to significant challenges in school. Challenges that we worked through as a family and he always found something positive from and/or learned a life lesson. With these lessons he touched so many people positively. He would give you the shirt off his back and then he’d wrap his arms around you to make sure you were comfortable in it.
Although Joshua had his issues, he always made sure everybody was happy and comforted. He never worried about himself. He always worried about everybody else. That’s just who he was. His friends describe him as loyal, creative, funny, intelligent, someone who made friends everywhere he went and someone those friends could always count on to be there for them. As one friend stated “Joshua had the heart, strength, charisma and confidence of 100 men. That smile could light half of North America,”

IMG_1305Joshua through all of his mental health issues persevered, graduated from high school, had a full time job, a girlfriend, had his recording studio completed and was in the process of building his house with his father.
The night he passed away, it was business as usual, he worked that day, came home, showered and was heading out to his younger brother’s house with his girlfriend, Robyn Brown 18, to make their halloween costumes for the upcoming halloween party. He hugged and kissed his father and me and said his usual bye, love you mom, love you dad and set out. I was working night shift and headed to work. I had just finished the nightly rounds at work and was in the nursing office writing my nursing notes when I heard the front door open, I glanced up at the clock, it was 1040 and I thought to myself, that must be Gavin our night security. Without lifting my head I called out Good evening Gavin. There was no reply, only footsteps and I thought that was strange. As I went to get up I felt a hand gently touch my shoulder, when I looked up I saw my husband with 2 police officers standing behind him. I immediately knew there was something terribly wrong, the pale horrified look on my husbands face was one I will never forget. The words that came next shattered my world…”Joshua 22, overdosed”. I immediately wanted to go to the hospital and see him thinking he was still alive but hospitalized. Charlie then told me it’s too late he died. I couldn’t believe it, I wouldn’t believe it, I insisted, demanded, begged and pleaded for them to take me to him. However the police told me it was too late he was already sent to the Medical Examiner’s in Halifax. I could not stop screaming…I wanted to see my son. My world had crumbled, it was surreal, I kept thinking this is a bad dream, a nightmare. And not being able to see him was making all of this so unbelievable.

The night of October 29, 2011 a 911 call was made by Kevin Wheaton 48, regarding a possible overdose. When authorities and EHS arrived at Kevin’s apartment, Kevin met them at the door and led them to Joshua, it was too late the paramedics were unable to assist him as rigor mortis had set in which meant Joshua was dead for at least 4 to 8 hours before the 911 call was made. Kevin reported in a newspaper article “Police searched the house for drugs., confiscating all of his prescription medication, including the methadone in the fridge”. “They even took a box of baking soda from the cupboard, he says, obviously suspecting it was cocaine.” However in the court room Officer Trekker reports that there were a multitude of prescription pill bottles all over the apartment. They reportedly seized five prescription medications and left the empty bottles in the apartment these five prescription medications were entered as evidence at the October 29,2013 trial however, none of these were methadone. When I questioned the Chief of Police, John Collyer on this matter he commented “Regarding the issue of seizure of the liquid methadone in the fridge; They seized all of the prescription pills they could see that were in ‘plain view’. Included in the pills that were seized were empty methadone pill containers.” Ironically Kevin reported to officers that night that he and Robyn “hit it off” and that they were now in love.

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It was four days after the events of October 29, 2011 before I finally saw my sons lifeless body laying in a casket. I still have unanswered questions as to who identified my son, no one from our family was asked to identify the remains. I have asked this question several times to the Police Department and still do not have an answer.

It took five months for the toxicology report to return. Joshua died of an acute methadone intoxication, which was not prescribed to him. Testing was negative for metabolites of methadone. This evidence suggested he was not tolerant to methadone. The concentration of methadone was within the reported fatal range. Kevin Wheaton reported in a newspaper article that he (Joshua) was intoxicated. In fact I will quote his statement. “it was obvious that he had been partying extensively, as he appeared to be under the heavy influence of alcohol”, however the toxicology report shows absolutely no trace of alcohol in his system.There were initial charges placed against Kevin Wheaton for trafficking, however, there was not enough evidence and the charges were dismissed.

The toxicology report was released on March 25, 2012 and Robyn Brown was deceased by March 29, 2012. After Robyn and Joshua went to Kevin’s that night, Joshua died and Robyn never returned home. She was never able to speak or see her family alone again, it was like she was brainwashed. Rumor is she was sexually exploited. She was physically changed beyond recognition, her family had to identify her lifeless body sustained by life-support, by comparing birth marks on her body with pictures, she never regained consciousness. Coincidently Kevin called 911 for Robyn too and she too died of acute methadone intoxication, also not prescribed to her. When paramedics arrived at the scene he reported that she did not do drugs and gave the paramedics and hospital staff the name Ashley Brown, therefore they were unable to access her medical history and treated her under fiction vs fact. There were no charges in her case.

It continues to puzzle me as to how there were three people in the room the night of October 29, 2011 and two of them are dead. The one person who had the prescriptions for the methadone bears no accountability or remorse for the families whose lives have been forever changed.

 

Signed,

Tamara Ballard, Joshua’s MomPics4MacDonald_Page_001

GPDOTS Director, LPN

Why do we need a Prescription Drug Drop Off Day?

I believe that is the real question that should be asked. Why is there a need for people to empty their medicine cabinets once a year and turn over thousands of unused prescription medications?

Could it be that physicians are over prescribing or prescribing unnecessary medications to their patients? Why are there so many unused drugs lying around? Why isn’t anyone asking this seemingly obvious question?

Prescription Drug drop off day originated as a response to the epidemic of opioid use and abuse. Opioids are synthetic heroin, are highly addictive and are a very powerful and dangerous painkiller. Used in the right circumstance, they are an effective treatment, but if prescribed for the wrong condition or abused can have dangerous consequences.

Like most ideas, it began with good intentions. We had an epidemic which required an immediate response. Let’s see, what is a cheap way to quell the public outrage of an epidemic originating from the health care system? Have patients voluntarily turn in their unused medications at pharmacies across the country. Provide the media with glowing success stories with statistics of the thousands of prescription pills turned in and destroyed.

Is this going to make a meaningful impact on the illicit drug trade or prevent doctors from over prescribing? No. Those patients who take part in prescription drug drop off day are usually the responsible people. The rx drug dealers or people who are opioid dependent from a legitimate prescription will not be turning over their meds. We should also take into account the millions of dollars our Pharmacare system paid for all those unused medications that will be incinerated. If a patient has been prescribed only what they need, why are there so many pills left over?

Prescription drug drop off day does help public safety but it also gives some stakeholders an opportunity for some nice photo ops, good spin and press coverage. It also distracts the public from the real issue; over prescribed and unnecessarily prescribed medications are being diverted from patients to an illicit market and legitimate pain patients who should have never been exposed to opioids are now dependent. This all began with an M.D.’s prescription pad.

Prescription drug drop off day is a good reminder that people should dispose of old medications for the safety of themselves and their loved ones. It can prevent medication getting into the wrong hands but it also sends the message that the epidemic is being fueled by forgetful patients and teenagers stealing their parent’s medications. This is simply untrue, but this is what some stakeholders want the public to believe. It once again takes the accountability away from government and doctors and puts it on the patient.

 

Rob Mulloy
Retired RCMP
Enforcement Consultant , GPDOTS

Prescription Drop-off Initiatives These initiatives aim to reduce the harms associated with certain prescription drugs (e.g., opioids, sedative-hypnotics, stimulants) by:

  • Promoting both the safe storage and disposal of prescription, over-the-counter and other drugs;
  • Reducing the amount of these drugs available in people’s homes for possible diversion and accidental poisonings;
  • Identifying unused medications to inform prescribing and dispensing practices;
  • Reducing the environmental impact associated with the inappropriate disposal of these drugs in the garbage and sewer systems; and
  • Increasing awareness about the safe storage and disposal of unused medication.

As many prescription drugs with a high potential for misuse come from the medicine cabinets of friends and families, the proper medical storage of these drugs can effectively reduce diversion (National Advisory Committee on Prescription Drug Misuse, 2013).

Why Prescription Drop-off Initiatives Are Important

A large portion of medications remain unused.

  • Unused drugs and inappropriately stored drugs can be used by people other than those for whom they were intended.
  • PDoIs can serve as a collection and disposal site for unused drugs, as well as provide a means of educating the public on their risks.
  • PDols reduce environmental impacts by intercepting unused drugs before they reach landfills and waterways. These initiatives constitute the only environmentally-sound way to dispose of unused drugs (Stoddard & Hugett, 2012; Gray & Hagemeir, 2012).
  • Many PDoIs seek to improve healthcare practices by providing data on the types of drugs collected to reduce over prescribing and dispensing of drugs that result in the most pharmaceutical waste (Gray-Winnett et al., 2010; Stoddard & Huggett, 2012) and have been associated with prescription drug misuse (PDM).

 Nova Scotia Drop off Locations May 10/2014 10am to 2pm

Amherst

Old Amherst town hall. 5 Ratchford Street

Annapolis Valley

Kentville Firehall

Berwick Firehall

Kingston FireHall

Wolfville Elm Ave

Bible Hill

MacQuarries Pharmasave, 241 Pictou Rd

 Bridgewater

Bridgewater Mall

Bridgetown

Pharmasave, 264 Granville St.

Cape Breton Region: Will have multiple sites through participating pharmacies

Central Division – 16

East Division – 9

North Division – 6

Chester

Chester Pharmasave, 3785 Hwy 3

Digby

Shoppers Drug Mart, 95 Warwick St.

Enfield

Enfield Pharmachoice, 284 Hwy 2

Halifax Region

Lower Sackville RCMP Detachment, 711 Sackville Rd.

MicMac Mall at the Police Week Displays inside the mall (adjacent to the Bay Department store).

Kingston

Kingston Fire Hall, 570 Sparky St.

Lunenburg

Lunenburg Kinley’s Drug Store, 264 Lincoln St.

Middleton

Middleton Pharmasave, 26 Commercial St.

Millbrook

Lawtons Drugs, 316 Willow St.

Pictou Landing

Pictou Landing Health Centre, 19 Maple St.

Pugwash

O’Brien’s Pharmachoice, 98 Water St.

Stellarton,  Westville, and  New Glasgow

Lawton’s Drugs 810 East River Road, New Glasgow

Shubenacadie

Guardian Drugs, 2815 Main St.

Tatamagouche

C.G. Fulton Pharmacy, 255 Main St.

Truro

Truro Police Service Headquarters

Wagmatcook

Wagmatcook Health Centre, 47 Humes Rear Rd.

Whycocomagh

Waycobah Health Centre, 150 Reservation Rd.

Yarmouth

Rural Detachment, RCMP Satellite Office, 328-1A Main St.