Those who have lost their lives due to an overdose were remembered by several community members in Penticton on Thursday, April 14, to mark the sixth anniversary of B.C. declaring a public health emergency regarding the opioid crisis.
Starting at noon outside of the Elks Club on 343 Ellis Street, people had the opportunity to learn about how they can help make a real change in preventing additional overdoses in their community.
From “end the stigma” messaging on signs to the sharing of personal stories and even a tutorial on how to execute an emergency rescue on somebody, Thursday afternoon’s event had it all in recognition of the province’s public emergency.
Over 9,000 British Columbians have lost their lives since B.C. declared an opioid crisis on April 14, 2016, including almost 1,500 in the Interior Health (IH) region alone.
“Talking about it openly is important,” said Scott Jacobsen, the manager of clinical operations at IH. “The more opportunity you have to have a conversation with anyone about it, you’re on the road to ending the stigma piece.”
Part of that conversation on Thursday included a lesson on how to use a Naloxone Rescue Kit, courtesy of IH.
“Anyone can do this if they follow the instructions,” said Lucas Knoll, the one responsible for teaching community members how to use the rescue kit. “There’s a bit of teaching involved with how to use the needles, but after that, this can save lives.”
Knoll said that the rescue kit is vital, as more overdose prevention services are introduced to the community.
“With the paramedics being so busy in town, this could help recover them before they recover on scene,” he said.
While the day was organized in response to the province’s public health emergency anniversary, members from IH used the day as an opportunity to educate as many people as they can.
“In 23.5 hours in the Interior, we’re losing one person,” said Julie Paul with IH.
“It’s vital that we come out, and educate people and family members today. We all know somebody that’s suffering.”
Black balloons could be seen flying in the air on Thursday, in an effort to bring awareness to the province-wide emergency.
Bringing awareness to the subject at hand, though, starts with ending the stigma — a piece viewed as having a significant impact on the number of overdoses each year.
“We know that stigma is a big contributor towards the lives that are lost,” a member from OneSky Community Resources said, one of the organizations that joined IH in coming together for the event.
“Stigma holds us back from accessing the services that we need, we need to see more change.”