Memorial commemorates those lost to opioid crisis

·1 min read

A memorial tree to honour those lost to the opioid crisis was placed in Pioneer Square last week.

Heather Paddison of Positive Living North says the tree is part of a campaign with the BC-Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors, aimed at reducing the stigma around drug addiction.

“We’ve lost more people to opioid overdoses than car accidents, suicides, and COVID combined,” said Paddison. “The reality is that some people won’t be home for Christmas. That’s what this is about.”

Opioid deaths are on the rise in northeast B.C. The coroners service has reported 28 fatal overdoses this year through the end of November, up from a previous high of 24 in 2018.

The region has one of the highest rates of death in the province, at 47 per 100,000 people.

The situation is unique in the province, said Paddison, as many users are not the stereotypical picture of addicts, often working class people who use drugs recreationally, such as cocaine.

“People have died in their trucks, using on the side of the road,” said Paddison, stressing the importance of peer supervision and carrying life-saving naloxone kits. “It’s critical that people don't use alone.”

Northern Health provides mental health and addictions supports at its offices in Pioneer Square, including harm reduction services and supplies, mental health and psychiatric case management, substance abuse treatment, treatment referrals, and detox referrals.

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Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News