Advertisement

Winnipeg group helping ease the pain of families who have lost loved ones to opioid overdose

(L to R) Arlene Last-Kolb and Rebecca Rummery holding pictures of their loved ones who both lost their lives to a fatal drug overdose. The women founded the organization Overdose Awareness Manitoba.
(L to R) Arlene Last-Kolb and Rebecca Rummery holding pictures of their loved ones who both lost their lives to a fatal drug overdose. The women founded the organization Overdose Awareness Manitoba. Submitted photo

Saturday marked International Overdose Awareness Day, and one Winnipeg support group is going above and beyond to make sure those who need support get it before it’s too late.

“It’s a day to remember those we have lost,” said Rebecca Rummery, who lost her boyfriend to an overdose. “It’s a day to end the stigma and it’s a day to remember those who’ve suffered a permanent brain injury because of an overdose.”

READ MORE: Opioid overdose deaths continue to increase in Canada, PHAC says

Rummery and Arlene Last-Kolb, who lost her son to a fentanyl overdose, began Overdose Awareness Manitoba in August 2018.

Last-Kolb and Rummery worked with the city of Winnipeg for a garden featuring pictures, rocks, paintings and other items aimed at remembering drug overdose victims in Manitoba.
Last-Kolb and Rummery worked with the city of Winnipeg for a garden featuring pictures, rocks, paintings and other items aimed at remembering drug overdose victims in Manitoba. Michael Draven / Global News

It’s a support group for families who are dealing with situations similar to what Rummery and Last-Kolb have gone through.

Story continues below advertisement

The pair do everything from handing out purple ribbons to making brochures available at hospitals to let families who have just lost a loved one know they are not alone.

READ MORE: Life-saving invention for opioids created in Calgary

“I believe that our families, by sharing their stories, their children have saved lives,” says Last-Kolb.

One of many pictures of overdose victims on trees at Stephen Juba Park.
One of many pictures of overdose victims on trees at Stephen Juba Park. Michael Draven / Global News

In July, the pair worked with the City of Winnipeg to set up a memory garden in a section of Stephen Juba Park to remember overdose victims.

“Along with the pictures on the trees, we asked 20 loved ones to come out to the human rights museum on Thursday and we took a group picture of us all holding our loved one’s picture,” Last-Kolb said.

Twenty people who’ve lost someone to drug overdoses hold pictures of their loved ones at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Twenty people who’ve lost someone to drug overdoses hold pictures of their loved ones at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Submitted Photo

Both women want to see more support for people in the midst of opioid addiction.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Boys and Girls Clubs across Canada getting free supply of Narcan

“We can’t have a waitlist, we need immediate access and we need the medically assisted detox and we need the long-term treatment that is accessible and affordable to people,” says Rummery.

Rummery says they’re also advocating for an easier way for people to get their hands on overdose reversal drugs.

“We would like to see Narcan and naloxone available free of charge. Right now you have to pay for it.”

In 2018, 4,460 Canadians lost their lives following an opioid overdose.

WATCH: ‘Prescription trigger happy’ — Opioids being dispensed at alarming rate

‘Prescription trigger happy’: Opioids being dispensed at alarming rate
‘Prescription trigger happy’: Opioids being dispensed at alarming rate