Wanda LeBlanc, a facilitator with Moms Stop the Harm harm-reduction advocacy group, sets up a tribute to those who have died of overdose during the International Overdose Awareness Day event Tuesday, Aug. 31, at Maffeo Sutton Park. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Community members grieve those who have died of overdose, call for harm reduction

International Overdose Awareness Day observed Tuesday, Aug. 31, in Nanaimo

Community members came together to remember and grieve those who have died of drug overdoses, and to try to limit the harm still to come in a public health crisis.

An International Overdose Awareness Day event was held Tuesday, Aug. 31, at Maffeo Sutton Park in Nanaimo.

“We’re here to grieve together and we’re here to grieve out loud and we’re here to be heard,” said Sarah Lovegrove, a community action team member and a lead director with the Rise Bridge Project.

She asked politicians to listen and learn, and Parksville-Qualicum MLA Adam Walker said community leaders will do just that. He spoke on behalf of Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson, B.C. mental health and addictions minister, expressing sorrow and also gratitude for the efforts of those providing supports and removing barriers to try to save lives in the opioid crisis.

“We are working hard to separate people from the poisoned drug supply and build more treatment beds and recovery options,” said Malcolmson in a statement. “Our government has been creating new drug policy in Canada that will save lives by supporting access to prescribed safer supply and connecting people to health-care services, and by moving forward on decriminalization of people who use drugs. We will do everything we can to turn this drug poisoning crisis around.”

Mayor Leonard Krog proclaimed Aug. 31 as International Overdose Awareness Day in the City of Nanaimo. The proclamation acknowledged the “harms, hardships and deaths” caused by a lethal drug supply and resolved that the city would do its part to help end the stigma of substance-use disorder and try to reduce the death toll of drug overdoses that are affecting family members, friends and neighbours.

The B.C. Coroners Service reported earlier Tuesday that 1,011 people have died of illicit drug overdoses in B.C. the first six months of 2021. Twenty of those deaths were in Nanaimo.

RELATED: B.C. on track to lose more than 2,000 people to illicit drug poisonings this year

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