Thursday, April 14th marks six years since the B.C. Government declared a public health emergency in response to drug poisoning deaths around the province.
Local groups are hoping to use the day to honour those who have died from toxic drugs.
“Interior health is kind of leading the way with this black balloon idea where service providers, individuals in the community and businesses display black balloons to honour and remember those who we’ve lost and to show your support in ending the public health emergency,” said Jessica Lamb, peer lead development coordinator with Ankors.
Lamb said the organization planned to have a vigil and protest on the 14th, but alterations have been made.
“During COVID and with people passing away and not being able to have funerals or gatherings, we just really wanted to focus on the side that people weren’t able to gather. We really want to honour and remember those people,” said Lamb. “We’re going to be doing the big events and protests and that kind of thing on August 31st and we decided to keep this date kind of low-key.”
According to the BC Coroner’s service, 9,410 British Columbians have died from toxic drugs since January of 2016. In February of 2022, at least 174 lives were lost to toxic drug overdoses in the province.
Lamb said it’s important for the public to be educated on the crisis.
“I think harm reduction and what advocates are pushing for is evidence-based treatments to the overdose crisis. That includes a safe supply and decriminalization, and those ideas can seem pretty radical to some people,” said Lamb. “Ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask questions either, because that’s how we get the conversation started.”
“When we sit down and look at the history of prohibition and what happened with alcohol and when we decriminalized alcohol, it created a space for people to feel less shameful about their problem with the substance, and able to seek help,” explained Lamb.
Kits with ribbon and black balloons can be picked up from Ankors before Thursday.
Lamb said the organization will also host Naloxone training on the 14th at the Ankors office. Participants will have their names entered for a draw to win a free t-shirt and nasal naloxone kit.
Ankors will host a turkey lunch from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Friday, April 15th.