It’s International Overdose Awareness Day, and in Vernon there are a few events happening to mark a day of reflection on B.C.’s toxic drug crisis.
A talking circle will be held at Cenotaph Park in Vernon at 4 p.m. Aug. 31. The talking circle will include land acknowledgements and will be a chance to remember loved ones lost to overdose.
As well, the Vernon Towne Theatre is screening Love in the Time of Fentanyl, a documentary highlighting the Overdose Prevention Society at a time when deaths in Vancouver have reached an all-time high.
The film screening is a fundraiser for Vernon Entrenched People Against Discrimination (VEPAD), a peer-led organization fighting against toxic drugs in Vernon.
The doors open at 5 p.m. with naloxone training, information on drug testing in Vernon and community resources. The film will be played at 6 p.m., and afterwards there will be a panel at 7:30 p.m. The panel features Shane Dallyn, president of VEPAD, Cheryl Jackson, peer activist and volunteer, Jennifer Glen of Interior Health’s Vernon Downtown MHSU Clinic, and Veronica Riguedell, a drug testing tech with Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy.
The panel will be moderated by Adrian Preece of Interior Health.
Tickets are $15 online or at the Towne Theatre. Contact the Downtown MHSU Clinic for details at 250-503-3737, or drop in.
On Thursday Interior Health released its 2022 Medical Health Officer report, covering the toxic drug crisis in B.C.’s southern Interior region. The report updates the impact of the substance poisoning emergency in the region since the onset of COVID-19. 2022 was the deadliest year on record, but only for now, as 253 people lost their lives in the first seven months of 2023, compared to 226 people in the same period in 2022.
“These aren’t just statistics and numbers: these are people we know and love. They are people in our families, people we work with, our neighbours and our friends,” said Dr. Carol Fenton, the report’s author, in the introduction.
The final part of the report uses the analogy of a river to describe the continuum of measures that promote health and wellness and prevent harm and suffering.
Vernon alone saw a total of 513 calls for overdose and drug poisoning in 2022, according to BC Emergency Health Services data.