Ahead of International Overdose Awareness Day, the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) travelled through the region in a purple ribbon caravan hoping to raise awareness on the overdose emergency.
The purple ribbon campaign caravan started at the Upper Nicola Band Health Office Monday morning and by noon Tuesday, they had made their way to Penticton. The Okanagan Nation Alliance was riding through with the goal of bringing attention to addiction issues that nation members and families are facing.
“A few years ago we had a couple of youth who overdosed and it really put a fire under us around a lot of our kids are using, younger and younger, we’re hearing 10,11-year-olds. Our older population were having deaths or overdose. It’s high enough for us to create this movement,” said Kim Montgomery, the mental health lead for the Okanagan Nation Alliance.
At each stop, members of the ONA were giving lessons on how to use naloxone kits, providing information on the overdose emergency and how everyday people can work together to end the stigma.
“When we talk about Interior Health and the First Nations Health Authority as well as the community, we all need to work together to figure out how we’re going to solve these issues,” said Allan Louis, health representative for the Okanagan Nation. “It’s not always about going to a treatment centre, a lot of it can be based out of home or communities and that’s the trend we’re looking for.”
The Okanagan Nation Alliance is hoping that by raising awareness, resources will become more readily available.
“I think it’s incredibly important to be able to create those partnerships so that we do have access to the resources that we need. We’re also able to take those resources and incorporate our cultural lens and perspective as part of those resources so it’s much more meaningful to our communities,” said Brenda Baptiste, the mental health substance use lead for the Penticton Indian Band.
The ONA says the best work they can do for harm reduction is to meet with community members and create relationships through a traditional healing process.
“We’re looking at what works for us in community and it’s the land. It’s being on the land, seeing the land and talking about our songs, talking about how do we take care of ourselves, how is our connection to our higher power and how that all plays a role in our mental health,” said Montgomery.