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Penticton, B.C. organizations mark six years since overdose public health declaration

Click to play video: 'Penticton organizations host overdose awareness event' Penticton organizations host overdose awareness event
Penticton organizations host overdose awareness event – Apr 14, 2022

Six years ago, a public health emergency was declared in B.C. for the overdose crisis.

Over the past several years, local organizations have been working hard to combat the illicit drug crisis but say more needs to be done.

“At the end of the day, our government has known that this is a crisis for six years and people are dying more in the current years than they were when they declared the crisis,” said Penticton and Area Overdose Prevention Society co-founder Desiree Surowski.

“What they’re doing isn’t working, there are answers and solutions primarily safe supply and decriminalization.”

Read more: Penticton, B.C. groups to mark 6 years since overdose public health emergency declaration

On this anniversary local organizations gathered together in Penticton, B.C., to help raise awareness about addiction and honour those who have lost their lives to illicit drugs.

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Amy MacDonald, ASK Wellness Society FTIR drug-checking technician and licensed practical nurse, helped organize the event.

“Doing these types of events, anyway that we can reduce the stigma around substance use, anyway to increase the awareness of substance use and how it affects anyone, it affects more than just one population; it doesn’t discriminate,” said MacDonald.

“And this is a way to spread that knowledge and awareness.

The Penticton and Area Overdose Prevention Society was one of the many services on site. The van drives around the South Okanagan offering a safe place for people to use injection drugs.

Click to play video: 'Black balloons scattered all over Okanagan to mark sad anniversary in opioid crisis' Black balloons scattered all over Okanagan to mark sad anniversary in opioid crisis
Black balloons scattered all over Okanagan to mark sad anniversary in opioid crisis – Apr 14, 2022

“We were created over a need for overdose prevention services. When we started, there was only overdose prevention services in either shelters or supportive houses. The population that was accessing those services didn’t have a place to use,” said Surowski.

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“I lost a lot of friends in the last couple years since I entered my recovery journey. I just want somewhere for people to feel loved and safe and important.”

The event also included stories from people with lived and living experiences and on-site drug checking as well as naloxone training with Interior Health.

“The amount of people who are overdosing and coming to [emergency] or in the alleyways and being saved is a lot and it is getting worse,” said Interior Health overdose prevention nurse Lucas Knoll.
“Anyone can [administer naloxone] — we can all try to do it and if you’re not sure there might be someone around that does know how … having a kit on you can save lives.”

Naloxone kits are available for free and to anyone at local pharmacies, any Interior Health building, local resource centres or mobile outreach vans.

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