Vernon's Alison Houweling has been named a Woman of the Year by a national magazine.
Best Health bestowed the honour on the North Okanagan woman, along with several others in the health and medical fields.
Houweling is a harm-reduction counsellor at the Cammy LaFleur Street Outreach Program in Vernon, and has seen the dangerous intersection of the opioid crisis and global pandemic play out before her eyes.
In October, the province reported more than 1,200 fatal drug overdoses so far in 2020. That is up from a 983 deaths in 2019.
“The distinction between our COVID-19 response and our opioid overdose crisis response is telling,” Houweling told Best Health.
“With COVID-19 … we all saw how quickly our social systems can be proactively changed to ensure the safety and security of our people. With the opioid overdose crisis, people seem to be still scratching their heads.”
Houweling got into harm-reduction work because she wanted to help others. Her parents always made a point to help the less fortunate, something Houweling has carried into her own life.
Despite the hardships of the pandemic, Houweling says this year has made people come together to find ways to support people with substance-use disorders while staying safe.