Despite adverse weather conditions, a group of Strathmore community members gathered in Kinsmen Park, Aug. 31 to host a vigil for Overdose Awareness Day.
Aug. 31 is recognized annually as a day to remember loved ones who have been lost to overdose, and who are struggling with drug use and addiction, as well as to raise awareness for how to help.
The vigil was organized by the Addiction Resource Coalition (ARC) of Strathmore and Wheatland. This organization was formerly known as the Strathmore and Wheatland Addiction Team (SWAT).
“It was just a chance to recognize and bring awareness for people who have been affected by overdose and addiction, and the people who generally go unseen … and people who have lost their lives due to addiction,” said Adelaide Milian, community coordinator for the Wheatland Youth Network and a member of the ARC. “It is important to talk about overdose. It affects a lot of people; when it comes to thinking about statistics, opioid addiction has gone up and addiction in general, and predominantly, we see a lot of that addiction happening with males.”
Milian added nearly half of people who pass away from overdose are home alone and isolated individuals.
Overdose Awareness Day, she said, is about creating conversation around addiction and substance abuse, reducing the stigma, and brining awareness into the community.
ARC operates in partnerships through several facets and other organizations within the community, such as the RCMP, AHS addictions and mental health, Wheatland Youth Network, and the Wheatland FCSS.
“There are also community members on this coalition to bring awareness and education, but also initiatives into the community to help bring awareness so that people can find those supports that they need and the resources they need when they are experiencing substance abuse and addiction,” said Milian.
Putting an emphasis on harm reduction, a vital part of being comprehensive, compassionate and collaborative in the public health system, the goal is to reduce risk, improve health, and connect people to the right services for their needs.
Safe consumption sites and naloxone kits fall into this category of harm reduction resources for those suffering with addiction and substance abuse to utilize.
Also now available is a free app called DORS (Digital Overdose Response System) which is free for anyone to download. The idea being for people who intend to use alone in an isolated space to press the app to indicate their intention to use, and if they do not respond within a certain time period, emergency services will be dispatched to their location immediately.
Other resources are available via the ARC and AHS websites online both for those who are in need of help, or for those who have a loved one who is affected by addiction or substance abuse.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times