NORTH BAY -- Fighting another battle on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials in North Bay said this last year has been particularly hard on people dealing with addictions.

"I just don’t want to see any more people pass," said Glenn Petersen, a member of the AIDS committee. "I’ve lost a lot of people I know personally here in town, clients and friends, you know, and it’s very disheartening to see this happen when you know had there have been naloxone available, that it may not have been death."

With statistics from January to November 2020, the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit said opioid overdose deaths are up across the northeast.

Sudbury has the highest death rate in the province with 47.2 deaths per 100,000 residents. The Porcupine Health Unit has a rate of 41.9 deaths per 100,000, with the Algoma District not far behind with a rate of 41 deaths. The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit sits fifth highest in the province with 34.7 deaths per 100,000 during the same period.

"I know that the numbers that are being reported are just the tip of the iceberg," Petersen said.

In response, the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit and local AIDS committee are launching a two-month-long campaign to try and reduce opioid-related deaths in the area. They will raise awareness and train as many people as possible on the use of naloxone – which can counteract the effects of an overdose.

"We’re working with community partners to address this," said Dr. Jim Chirico, the medical officer of health for the North Bay area. "It is a serious issue. We have plans to look at the potential for an overdose site, a safe site, to prevent overdoses."

A site that Petersen said will definitely help reduce harm in the community.

"It would save lives," he said. "You know, no one has died at a prevention site. That’s the bottom line. You know, there’s been overdoses, but no one has died at a prevention site because of the health-care professionals that are there working there."

Petersen said his group wants to save lives.

"Life is a precious thing and regardless of who it is," he said.