A sombre but dedicated group of Aurora staff made their way to Winnipeg’s Stephen Juba Park on August 31, 2020, doing their part to recognize the significance of International Overdose Awareness Day.
A collection of mental health and addiction advocates and community organizations took part in an afternoon of sharing, awareness, and support of the reality that is addiction and overdose. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the campaign, which began in Australia.
Overdose Rates Rise Due To COVID-19
On a sunny day in the park, the weather contrasted with the harsh realities expressed by many of those present. In times of COVID restrictions, overdose rates are significantly higher in many parts of the country. For those active in substance abuse recovery, this sad reality is all too obvious as tragic reports of loved ones and friends who pass away are far too frequent.
The program opened with the Wildflower song, as the women singers and drummers talked about springing into action when dangers threaten communities. People painted rocks of remembrance, hung flags of hope, participated in a photo collage, and received purple ribbons to use as memorials on trees across the city. Mayor Bowman had the Winnipeg sign lit purple for the day.
Goal For Overdose Awareness Day: Reschedule Naloxone
Organizer Arlene Last-Kolb, shared frustrations about the fact that Naloxone – a medication that blocks the effects of opioids – is a Schedule 2 drug in Manitoba, which inhibits its availability to those who could assist when a life-threatening situation arises.
“Now, more than ever, we have to come together. We have approached a range of leaders to ask that Naloxone be rescheduled. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma. Addiction is considered the bottom of the barrel,” said Last-Kolb.
It is her hope that Naloxone would be as widely available in public spaces, and as accepted, as AED machines. The stigma of addiction will be front and center for the next while as September is Recovery Month. Winnipeg’s Recovery Day is a virtual event that will be online on Saturday, September 19. St. Raphael Wellness Centre and Aurora Recovery Centre are helping as sponsors and Tom Jackson headlining the musical support.