Moms Stop the Harm unveils BC Transit billboards in Kelowna

Bus signs send OD message

Local advocacy group Moms Stop the Harm now has rolling billboards on BC Transit buses around Kelowna.

The group started amongst mothers who had all lost children as a result of drug overdose, but it has quickly grown into a nationwide organization that includes anyone who has lost a loved one to drugs.

Arlene Howe, Helen Jennens and Pam Turgeon have all lost children to overdose and are hoping to bring change through education and support.

Howe lost her son Steve on Jan. 31, 2015, as a result of a fentanyl overdose.

Jennens lost her oldest son Rian Leinweber in 2011 from a prescription drug overdose, and in 2016, lost her youngest son Tyler Leinweber to a fentanyl overdose.

Turgeon lost her son Ryan on Feb. 1, 2016, also to fentanyl.

"We advocate for a change in drug policy to keep people with substance use disorder safe and alive until we have treatment and recovery options for them," said Jennens.

The viral photo on the group's bus ads shows 15 women dressed in black with crosses in Kelowna's Knox Mountain Park to mark International Overdose Awareness Day.

"We would not be on a bus ... if we hadn't lost them to substance misuse. So part of that is to pull at the heart strings of the community so that they see us ... this could be anybody's child," said Howe.

In addition, the mothers urge people to think about the drug crisis when voting in the federal election.

"Our kids are gone ... we're not doing this for our children, we're doing it for everybody else's children and we're in the middle of an election year. We have yet to see a candidate get up and speak about one of the biggest crises that will ever hit our country," said Jennens.

"We're hoping that these photos on the buses will get people thinking about the people dying and the fact that our government needs to step up and do something about it."

The women in the photograph gathered at the Orchard Park bus loop Friday morning to view the bus billboard.

Moms Stop the Harm provides support for those with loved ones who are in active drug misuse as well as those who have lost a loved one from overdose. For more information, click here.

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