Advocates call for end of stigma on Overdose Awareness Day

Advocates call for end of stigma on Overdose Awareness Day
WatchSince 2012 roughly 4,000 have died in the opioid epidemic. Saturday communities across the globe gathered to remember their loved one, and highlight the ongoing crisis. They point to stigma as a major reason why so many are dying. Julian Kolsut reports.

Many families across the world and right here on Vancouver Island were remembering loved ones who died from overdoses on Saturday.

International Overdose Awareness Day was on, and looks to bring a crisis that hides in the shadows out in to the open.

“He died about three or four years ago, and now he is a statistic,” said Terry Marion of Aids Vancouver Island.

“It just makes it really close to home for me…we both suffered through addictions, and I got lucky, I got into the methadone program and it saved my life…my brother, didn’t.”

There was one event hosted in Langford’s Veterans Memorial Park and a second at Victoria’s Centennial Square.

“It really is an opportunity to educate our community about the challenges on substance use,” said Jennifer Howard from Moms Stop The Harm.

“It’s a day to advocate for change for drug policy. And it is also a day to really recognize and honour the grief that is felt across this nation of many mothers and families like myself.”

Her only child Robby died from a overdose three years ago. Ever since, she and her sister have been working for change to reduce the overwhelming number of lives lost.

“It really is about…in learning more about challenges of substance use, reducing the stigma that’s attached to drug use,” she added.

Using alone because of fear or stigma is a major reason why so many people are dying.

Roughly 4,000 people have died of fentanyl-related overdoses in the province since 2012. In 2016, It was declared a public health emergency — but since then there has been some progress.

“On South Vancouver Island in 2018 there were over 30 deaths per 100,000 people and in the first six months of 2019 that has dropped to 18.5 per 100,000,” said Mitzi Dean, the MLA from Esquimalt-Metchosin.

“We need to keep it that way, working together and reducing stigma and enabling people in the community to actually respond to this crisis.”

But as the crisis continues Marion says this day is playing a critical role in reminding everyone of the price of not taking action.

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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