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Memorial service marks overdose awareness day in Peterborough

A couple light a candle to honour someone who died as a result of a drug overdose. CHEX TV/Peterborough

About a dozen people gathered at St. John’s Church in Peterborough to remember those who have lost their lives to drug overdoses.

“The danger in overdose conversations is that we say, ‘those people.’ They are us. We are them,” said Christian Harvey, director of Warming Room Community Ministries, which organized Friday’s event.

READ MORE: Fatal drug overdoses spike in Peterborough in 2017

The hour-long service, which took place on Overdose Awareness Day, emphasized the importance of breaking down the stigma surrounding drug addiction.

“Whenever anyone is hurting, whenever we lose anyone in the community, that is a big deal,” Harvey said. “There is no one who is expendable.”

While those at the church on Friday grieved a loved one, Peterborough continues to grapple with an opioid crisis.

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According to PARN, overdose death rates and emergency room visits continue to climb. Health officials are still hoping to set up a safe injection site, though the province has frozen plans for three similar sites elsewhere in Ontario.

READ MORE: Overdose deaths continue to rise as police tackle growing opioid crisis

“I know a lot of people who think that’s enabling, but someone who’s in addiction has such a strong desire to use at times, they need to be able to go to some place that’s safe and not use alone, because that’s how my son died,” said Clare Keast, who lost her son Kevin to a drug overdose two years ago.

Keast’s son was 36 when he died of an overdose, following an addiction he tried to hide. She says there needs to be better and faster access to services in Peterborough to help people who are trying to break free.

“It can touch anyone in any walk of life,” Keast said. “And once someone has the addiction, it’s relentless.”

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