Commemorative events will be held in Trail and Rossland on Wednesday, marking five years since B.C. declared the opioid crisis a provincial health emergency.
Advocates with the Rural Empowered Drug Users Network (REDUN) and Moms Stop the Harm will be near the Victoria Street Bridge in downtown Trail on April 14 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Then from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. they’ll be outside the temporary city hall in Rossland, located at 2196 Leroi Ave. In both cities, symbols of the 150-plus people who die in B.C. each month will be presented.
“The stigma around drug use means people do not reach out for help, for fear of being arrested, or losing their jobs, homes or families,” said Lisa Kavaloff, Trail REDUN coordinator. “REDUN has been working to reduce stigma around drug use by doing community clean ups of drug paraphernalia.”
Only one, part-time program exists in Trail and Rossland, an opioid replacement therapy clinic, where substance users are provided prescription drugs to help them stop using street drugs. Counselling, medical and social support is also available at the site.
“COVID-19 has made the crisis worse,” says Tammy McLean, Family Nurse Practitioner/Addiction Medicine and Moms Stop the Harm member. “The street drug supply is becoming increasingly toxic resulting in an increase in deaths due to poisoning. People are using alone inside their homes, with no support.”
The latest statistics from Interior Health show 48 overdose fatalities within its region in the first two months of 2021.
Five of those occurred in the Kootenay Boundary in January.
Since the declaration on April 14, 2016, more than 7,000 people have died of overdose in B.C. – around five people each day.
The year 2020 recorded 1,716 overdose deaths, the highest number of deaths in one year since 2016.
In 2020 there was a 75 per cent jump in annual overdose deaths over the previous year, and 80 per cent of deaths occurred inside private residences and other facilities.
The City of Rossland, along with 40 other communities in Canada, recently passed a resolution presented by Moms Stop the Harm, urging the federal government to support municipalities by declaring the opioid crisis a national public heath emergency, with additional resources and focus the crisis requires.
REDUN and Moms Stop the Harm members are planning to soon present the resolution to Trail city council.
Read more: Who is REDUN?