Kindness bag campaign to raise awareness of overdoses in Manitoba

Click to play video: 'Kindness bags to support Manitobans' Kindness bags to support Manitobans
WATCH: Overdose Awareness Manitoba talks about putting together "kindness bags" for Manitobans living with addictions. – Jul 26, 2021

The co-founder of Overdose Awareness Manitoba says her organization’s kindness bag campaign is a way to brighten the day of people in need, as well as to honour the memories of Manitobans who lost their battles with substance use.

Rebecca Rummery told Global News she started making the bags — which will be distributed via local community groups on Tuesday — after her own partner died of an overdose three years ago.

“I started doing them in 2018 after he passed away — it was really a way to keep his memory alive in a positive aspect,” Rummery said.

“It’s something he would’ve done. I think for the rest of our group, too, it’s very therapeutic… it’s a way to make sure our loved ones are not going to be forgotten about. It’s something they all would have done. They were all very kind and giving people.”

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Read more: Drug overdose deaths spiked 87 per cent in Manitoba last year

Last year, Overdose Awareness Manitoba put together 32 of the bags, which include everything from personal hygiene products to snacks, and they’re doing it again in 2021 to coincide with the Kindness Project Day on Tuesday.

The day, which began in 1996 as a way for families to honour their deceased loved ones, seemed like a perfect way for the organization to get involved, she said.

“It’s an international initiative and we’re supporting it,” said Rummery.

“It brightens up someone’s day, and that’s all we can ask for… people are always very grateful to receive these bags.”

Rummery said the bag initiative is just one way Overdose Awareness Manitoba is working to change the stigma and perception the public has of people suffering from substance use disorders.

Up next is the Purple Ribbon Campaign, which runs throughout Overdose Awareness Month in August.

“What we really intend to do is just put a face to the crisis,” she said.

According to numbers released by the province’s office of the chief medical examiner earlier this year, Manitoba saw a massive increase in overdose deaths throughout 2020 — 372 overdose deaths last year, which comes out to a full 87 per cent jump in numbers from the previous year.

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The majority of those deaths — 254 — involved at least one opioid, with fentanyl listed as a contributing factor in 196 of the deaths, according to the data.

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