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EXCLUSIVE: Man fatally overdoses after leaving overcrowded shelter

Last Updated Feb 17, 2017 at 7:48 pm EDT

A 28-year-old man who fatally overdosed on heroin that may have been laced with fentanyl left a downtown drop-in shelter due to overcrowding on the night he died.

The city confirms the man went to St. Felix Centre on Augusta Avenue around 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The shelter was 10 people beyond capacity when he arrived. He was offered a referral to another location, but declined.

Instead he went to a nearby fast food restaurant, where he overdosed in the bathroom.

In a cruel twist, it was a St. Felix employee who discovered him dead inside the restaurant.

Coun. Joe Cressy believes the city has to do more to prevent similar deaths in the future.

He says the city should be investing more in overdose prevention work, including supervised injection services and increased nalaxone distribution. Nalaxone can reverse an overdose on dangerous opioids.

He also believes an increase in shelter beds can make a difference.

“These deaths are preventable,” said Cressy. “What’s also concerning to me is the fact that we don’t have enough beds in our shelter system right now to service the people that need them. People who need a bed in a time of need can’t find one.

“Not every overdose death is preventable, but we can prevent more if we do more.”

Mayor John Tory’s office issued a statement calling the death “a very tragic circumstance.”

“City staff are investigating and we will be asking for a full report once all the facts are known,” the statement reads.

“The mayor has been very vocal about the dangers of fentanyl and attended the first meeting of the Toronto Overdose Prevention Working Group in early January to prepare for the impacts of this dangerous drug in our city.”

On Thursday, Toronto police issued a public service alert warning of the possibility of contaminated street drugs laced with fentanyl.

“What we’re saying is, if you have any doubts at all, err on the side of caution,” said Spokesman Mark Pugash. “I think we have an obligation to let people know.”