Amanda Lavigne, the regional practice lead on substance use for Interior Health, stands next to the traveling memorial display at the Penticton Regional Hospital. Each of the 645 candles represent an overdose death from between 2016 and 2018. (Brennan Phillips – Western News)

Display to spark conversation about overdoses in Okanagan

Each of the 645 candles represent an overdose death in the community

The creators of a display at the Penticton Regional Hospital is intended to ignite a conversation about overdoses in the Interior Health region.

The Burning Bright display features 645 candles, one for each person that has died from illicit drug overdoses from January 2016 to December 2018.

“What we’re hoping for this display is that it sparks a conversation around stigma. People very much misunderstand addiction, it’s not a moral issue,” said Amanda Lavigne, the substance use regional practice lead for Interior Health. “We want people to know that stigma is a significant barrier for accessing health care services and accessing the services that they need. So we want this display to spark that conversation and bring light and attention to stigma in each of the communities, and ensuring that people are asking questions and being educated.”

April marks the start of the fourth year since the Interior Health Authority declared a state of emergency because of the rising number of deaths due to overdoses in B.C. Of the 645 lives lost, 36 of them were in Penticton, 68 were in Vernon, 141 in Kamloops and 216 in the Central Okanagan, according to statistics provided by the B.C. Coroners Service.

“We wanted to have a way to continue the conversation and bring forward the light of all of the 645 lives that have been lost over the last three years,” said Lavigne, of the Burning Bright display that will be in Penticton until the end of the week.

READ ALSO: Display to shine a light on overdose deaths in Interior Health region

The display, which also includes statistical information, is intended to start conversations in each of the communities it passes through about not just overdose deaths, but also the situations around the people who overdose. There is also space to leave a comment about a loved one.

“For the month of April we’re having the display travel between our four communities with the largest overdose rates in Interior Health,” said Lavigne. “So we’re starting here in Penticton. The display is here from today until Friday, and then it goes on to Kelowna, Vernon and then Kamloops.”

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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