Mississauga man who died one of many remembered on Overdose Awareness Day


Published August 24, 2022 at 2:08 pm

overdose awareness day

Mississauga resident Corey Smigelsky, a father and local businessman, had his life cut short, dying of an overdose just days after turning 29 years old.

Smigelsky’s mother and sister-in-law remember him and many others who have died from this preventable death on Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31 from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Port Credit Lighthouse. It is the third year for the event in Mississauga.

Opioid overdoses are on the rise in Ontario. About eight people per day died from opioids in the second year of the pandemic, preliminary data from Ontario’s Office of the Chief Coroner shows. From April 2021 to March 2022, 2,790 opioid-related deaths were recorded, up slightly from 2,727 in the first year of the pandemic.

In Peel, opioid-related deaths continue to rise, with 654 deaths reported from 2017 to 2021.

The numbers are shocking and Smigelsky’s mother Marie McKenna, said the loss impacts a community.

“You look at the numbers in Peel…and there’s a family behind each and every one of them, there’s a mother, there’s a wife, there’s a child, the families are being destroyed in the aftermath of these deaths,” McKenna tells insauga.

Trying to get clean

Smigelsky struggled with addiction for several years before overdosing twice in one day — the second time was fatal. He died on Aug. 24, 2018.

“He just turned 29 on August 20,” says McKenna.

He had been prescribed valium for anxiety but later moved on to oxycontin in his early 20s, McKenna says.

But in the last four years of his life, he was working hard on recovery. Unfortunately, in one Ontario rehab, he tried heroin for the first time.

Despite his struggles, Smigelsky owned a successful lighting distribution company in Mississauga, and he had a daughter, said his sister-in-law Christine Inrig. He grew up in a middle-class Mississauga neighbourhood, and most people would have never guessed he struggled with addiction.

“I think that’s part of our mission,” says Inrig. “There’s no actual bias with it (addiction). It doesn’t discriminate on the rich or the poor.”

With the help of a doctor in a Lakeview clinic, Smigelsky had chosen to go substance-free in June 2018.

“He had gone 59 days, clean and sober,” says McKenna.

But on day 60, Smigelsky had a relapse. He took what he thought was heroin but it was fentanyl. He was sent to hospital where McKenna picked him up. But he told her he fell and bumped his head.

“He didn’t want me to know what truly had happened,” she says.

She felt he could be lying but had no way to know for sure. He was released from the hospital without any help.

“They just are exited out a door,” she says. “There needs to be aftercare to help in this substance use disorder they suffer from.”

She dropped her son off at home and unfortunately, he had a small amount of the drug he had used earlier left. He took it and this time he died.

“He was a very determined player for several years, trying to get clean and his death is preventable,” she says. “Most of these deaths are preventable.”

overdose awareness day

Advocating for support

In the wake of his death, McKenna advocates for aftercare, and she spoke to Region of Peel council in support of safe drug consumption sites. She runs a support group with Moms Stop the Harm.

“That’s what makes my life feel productive now without Corey in it,” she says. “That’s the only time I feel that I have some kind of a purpose in light of his loss.”

Inrig said there is a stigma attached to overdose deaths and she often sees hateful comments on social media posts on addiction.

“I guess the main point for us starting this (the Overdose Awareness Day event) was to show people that they’re not alone,” Inrig says. “Because when we lost my brother-in-law, we felt very alone.”

On Aug. 31, there will be keynote speakers from Mississauga, singer Tom Barlow will perform his song, The Wizard.  A fire truck will be there along with first responders who will hopefully provide their perspective.

This year, those who lost a loved one are encouraged to bring a photo for a candlelight vigil and a moment of silence in remembrance.

McKenna and Inrig hope raising awareness will bring this issue to the forefront.

“We have to do what has to be done to save the lives of our children,” said McKenna. “We’re losing a whole generation of young males across this country that will impact In the ongoing population of Canada.”

For more information on Overdose Awareness Day, visit the website.

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