Grieving mother Nicola Hill who lost her son to an accidental overdose spoke at last year's event held in Gyro Park. (Jesse Day Western News file photo)

Event in downtown Penticton marks 6th year of rising overdose deaths

Speakers, Naloxone training and lunch offered at Elks hall at noon April 14

On Thursday, April 14 people will make their way through downtown Penticton holding black balloons.

The march is part of a day to recognize that April 14 marks the sixth anniversary that B.C.’s provincial health officer declared a public health emergency due to a significant increase in opioid-related overdoses and deaths. Since that declaration six years ago, the number of people who have died from drug toxicity in B.C. has risen dramatically.

Everyone is welcome to meet at 11 a.m. at the Mental Health and Substance Use Services Unit on Martin Street where the group will walk up Martin and down Main to end at the Elks parking lot (343 Ellis St.) where a memorial will be set up for those who have lost their lives to the toxic drug supply.

Starting at noon at the Elks, the day will have speakers including Moms Stop the Harm about the health crisis that continues to take the community’s sons and daughters. There will also be drug checking, Naloxone training and a free hamburger lunch.

The event is being put on by OneSky, Moms Stop the Harm, Interior Health and Ask Wellness.

Last year, grieving mothers, drug users and recovering addicts met at Gyro Park to share in stories and call for action.

READ MORE: Moms speak of the unending grief they experience after losing child to overdose

Newly released data from the B.C. Coroner’s Service shows that eight Pentictonites died for toxic drug supply between January and February 2022. That is the same amount of deaths as larger cities like Delta, Chilliwack and Maple Ridge.

Last year was the worst year for fatal overdoses in Penticton.

READ MORE: 2021 worst year for overdoses in Penticton

Many including B.C.’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe are calling for a safe drug supply. But so far, safe supply has not been approved across the province.

“Drug toxicity is now second only to cancers in B.C. for potential years of life lost. We cannot simply hope that things will improve. It is long past time to end the chaos and devastation in our communities resulting from the flourishing illicit drug market, and to ensure, on an urgent basis, access across the province to a safe, reliable regulated drug supply,” said Lapointe last year.

Six British Columbians died from toxic drug poisonings each day in February, according to the latest BC Coroners Service data.

A total of 174 people died – including six people under the age of 19 – new statistics released Tuesday (April 12) show.

That makes February the 17th consecutive month in which more than 150 lives were lost in B.C. to the toxic drug supply.

READ MORE: 174 British Columbians – 6 under the age of 19 – died of toxic drug poisonings in February

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