Communities across Vancouver Island marked International Overdose Awareness day Wednesday with calls for more action to end the ongoing crisis.
“Do you have adequate detox facilities and accessible treatment options? Do we have politicians with courage, with compassion, with power to do what is right? No. No we don’t,” said Leslie McBain, co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm at an event in Victoria.
“There’s been lots of talk about a regulated safer supply that’s absolutely necessary at this point. We have to separate people from this deadly, toxic supply 100 per cent,” said Shari Dunnet of the Comox Valley Community Action Team.
Deaths due to toxic drugs began spiking in 2016 with over 10,000 people dying since April of that year when a public health emergency was declared.
In the first six months of 2022, 1,095 people died, of those 73 per cent were aged 30 to 59, and 78 per cent were male.
The day is about remembering loved ones, calling for change and addressing the stigma around drug users.
Samantha Joe took the microphone in Courtenay and admitted to “shooting up” several times a day, but the stigma she says is what hurts the most.
“If there wasn’t as much stigma maybe people would feel better about getting themselves a job or going out there and being productive in the community,” she told CHEK News.
Two Island Health employees feel so strongly about reversing the stigma that they’ve been pedalling down and around Vancouver Island in their Revolutions Against Stigma Ride.
“Jen and I started this ride to bring some awareness to the poisoned drug supply and the stigma that’s attached to it and the hopes that people take a moment and think about it and maybe change their opinion and have a different opinion of people using substances,” said Chris Goble, clinical supervisor of Substance Use Services in the Comox Valley.
The pair is raising money to help their cause and hope to raise $7,500.
More information on their mission, upcoming rides and a link to donate can be found here.