April 11, 2017 4:42 pm

Memorial wall for overdose victims erected on DTES


Almost a year after British Columbia’s chief medical officer announced the province was in the middle of an opioid crisis and facing a public health emergency, a memorial wall for people who have died of an overdose has been erected on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Tuesday morning.

The organizers are hoping the wall will help to put a face on the overdose crisis and help families heal.

Former Vancouver Park Commissioner and community advocate Sarah Blyth says they are encouraging people who have lost their loved ones to write a message on the wall and leave a photo or a name.

Already this morning, there were dozens of “rest in peace” messages left on the wall at 62 East Hastings Street.

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“It’s been a year since they have declared a provincial crisis and we want to show people that it’s still going on,” Blyth told Global News. “We see people still dying of overdoses every day. We need more help. This needs to be taken seriously.”

The mother of a 26-year-old man who died of a fentanyl overdose eight months ago told reporters she is grateful to have a place to mourn her son.

“I really miss my son,” she said. “Never do [drugs] alone, that’s what I always say.”

READ MORE: Drug overdose among the top 10 causes of death in B.C.

“The heartbreaking thing for people in this neighbourhood is — it’s difficult to commemorate the dead when we can’t get the names of the dead,” community advocate Ann Livingston said. “We desperately needed an obituary process or a place to put names. This is the beginning of a memorial project. It’s very unsettling to not know which of your friends and neighbours have died. I think it’s adding to the grief of people in this neighbourhood and adding to the overdoses as people lose hope and become more reckless with their drug use.”

There have been a total of 914 overdose deaths in B.C. in 2016, an increase of almost 80 per cent over the number of deaths in the previous year (510).

The latest numbers released by the BC Coroners Service for February show there were 102 suspected drug overdose deaths, an equivalent of about 3.6 deaths per day. The February number is a nearly 73 per cent increase over the number of deaths in the same month last year.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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