By Sheena Campbell, Shannon MacDonell Ellard, and Carolyn Karle

Dayna Elizabeth Karle was a talented hairstylist, a hockey player, and a loyal friend to everyone she met. Using substances was also a big part of her life.

In 2018, Dayna began her recovery journey. She struggled with relapse, but gained a strong footing in sobriety for almost a year—this, after being turned away from detox and enduring long wait times to enter local treatment, ultimately going to a private facility in southern Ontario as a gift from her parents.

But in the early morning hours of September 19, Dayna relapsed and died from a toxic mixture of cocaine and fentanyl.

Dayna wanted to give back to those struggling with addictions and didn’t get the chance. In the months following her death, Dayna’s mother, Carolyn Karle, has taken up the cause and created the DEK Foundation in Dayna’s memory—a team of like-minded individuals determined to improve addiction treatment services in northern Ontario.

The DEK Foundation has been meeting with people who work in the field of mental health and addictions, members of city council, MPs, and MPPs representing northern Ontario, as well as advocacy groups. All agree that we are in crisis and that resources and funding are severely lacking.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to helping people who use substances. What we do know is that certain services do need to be in place if people are going to have a fighting chance to gain sobriety. Withdrawal management—or “detox,” as most people call it—is often the first step towards recovery. Detox aims to minimize the negative impacts of withdrawal symptoms, and make the experience as safe as possible.

Thunder Bay only has one publicly funded withdrawal management program, out of the Balmoral Centre. It is estimated that staff turn away about 3,000 people a year looking for help due to capacity issues. That is nine people a day.

Here are some facts: Thunder Bay’s opioid overdose rate is over twice the national average. As of July 2021, the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre had seen 148 overdoses, with 48 of them being fatal.

Some questions we need answers to: is there an acknowledgement that northern Ontario is being disproportionately impacted by the crisis? Are there plans to move forward with the proposal submitted in spring 2021 from community health care providers for the expansion of treatment facilities? Is there an overall plan being formulated that can be shared with the public, or will we need to be content with a patchwork response based on allocation of funding from the three levels of government instead of need?

As the organization moves forward, it will be advocating to address the lack of treatment options in northern Ontario, from withdrawal management services and in-person treatment facilities, to aftercare where people can receive counselling and life skills training.

The seeds for the DEK Foundation have been planted and we would love for you to join us on this journey.

For more information, to show support, or to advocate with us, message Carolyn Karle on Facebook or find #tbaydemandsdetox on all social media platforms.