We Will Recover Society is holding a two day event in Oliver for International Overdose Awareness Day

It's poisoning, not overdose

Ignorance, blame, and punishment are perpetuating the toxic drug crisis, the We Will Recover Society says, and because of this they are holding a two day event to raise awareness around International Overdose Awareness Day.

Lori Vrebosch, Executive Director of We Will Recover Society says it’s ridiculous that there is still no effective and concrete action being done about the toxic drug crisis and explains that we as a society are failing on all fronts.

“People are continuing to die . . . There are simply not enough adequate services and resources available for people who are struggling with substance use disorders, addictions of any kind. It’s ridiculous,” Vrebosch explained.

The public health emergency is setting records that no one wants to see. For 13 months straight now, more than 190 British Columbians have lost their lives to the toxic, unregulated drug supply according to the BC Coroners Service. In the month of July, 198 people died because of the toxic drug supply.

Indigenous people are highly overrepresented in these numbers. In 2022 Indigenous people made up 16.4 per cent of the overdose deaths in BC, despite making up 3.3 per cent of the population.

According to the BC Coroners Service between January and July 2023, at least 1,455 deaths were attributed to toxic drugs, representing the largest number ever reported in the first seven months of a calendar year.

“I am saddened to once again report that British Columbia’s toxic drug crisis shows no signs of abating” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.

Unregulated drug toxicity is the leading cause of death in BC for people aged 10 to 59.

Vrebosch said it is shocking how ignorant and judgemental people are about this crisis. “Not everybody who died by overdose was an addict . . . children have died from overdose. Babies have died from overdose.”

This is because, “it’s not overdose. It’s poisoning,” she says.

She continued, “people don’t understand this and it’s like, holy cow it’s really offensive that people are so this blind and ignorant to what has been going on for many years now . . . Like this war on drugs didn’t resolve anything other than to escalate the problem. It’s shocking to see how few supports there actually are even for the family.”

International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) takes place on Thursday August 31 and the theme this year is “recognizing those people who go unseen.”

“We honor the people whose lives have been altered by overdose,” the Overdose Day website says. “They are the family and friends grieving the loss of a loved one; workers in healthcare and support services extending strength and compassion; or spontaneous first responders who selflessly assume the role of lifesaver.”

Based around this theme, the event taking place in Oliver will focus on supporting those who have lost their lives to toxic drug poisoning and the families and friends that have been left behind.

The event kicked off on Wednesday August 30, where the We Will Recover tipi was raised. The day featured various activities including ribbon making, street decoration, harm reduction information, Narcan/Naloxone training, beading bracelets, painting photo boxes, feathers, rocks. There will also be refreshments, guest speakers and music.

At 7 p.m. inside the tipi there will be the society’s first official peer-led family support meeting for those who have been impacted by a loved one who uses or has used substances.

The We Will Recover Society painted numerous purple chairs and placed some of them around town to raise awareness. Also part of the event was painting some memory photo boxes for families to take home.

On Thursday August 31 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., there will be Narcan and Naloxone training and free narcan nasal spray for attendees. There will also be guest speakers, resources and referrals, refreshments, crafting, a memorial walk at 6 p.m., and a flameless candlelight vigil.

Everyone is welcome and there will be free purple ribbons, free painted photo memory box gifting to bereaved families and the chance to paint a purple handprint on the tipi in honour of a loved one.

The event is all about supporting loved ones and the people that are unseen in this public health emergency. “People will be welcome to come inside the tipi, the comfort place, it’s a place where we can share our stories,, without judgment. That’s important,” Vrebosch said.

The event will take place at Oliver Parks and Recreation East Field, for more information you can contact We Will Recover at [email protected] or call 403-333-4147.

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