TEMISKAMING SHORES – People are invited to gather on the shore of Lake Temiskaming in New Liskeard on Wednesday, August 31, to observe International Overdose Awareness Day and to remember those who have been lost through opioid overdoses.
The gathering takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and those present will include representatives of the Pavilion Women’s Centre in Haileybury, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Emergency Medical Services, Mino Mshki-ki Indigenous Health Team, the Timiskaming Health Unit, and the Salvation Army food truck.
Pavilion Women’s Centre program coordinator Kayla Martell said that those in attendance will be invited to paint rocks as a tribute to those who have been lost to a drug overdose.
The Pavilion will supply ribbons to hang on the memorial tree and people are encouraged to bring their own ornaments as a tribute to those who have been lost as a result of a drug overdose, she continued.
Naloxone kits will be made available and training will also be supplied for their use. Harm-reduction supplies will also be available.
An increase in apparent opioid toxicity deaths was observed throughout the pandemic, said Martell.
“That toll has remained extremely high,” she said.
In 2021, approximately 21 people died per day in Ontario as the result of opioid deaths, she said. In 2016 that rate was eight, and in 2018 an average of 12 people died each day in Ontario as the result of an opioid overdose, she added.
“Our goal for the day is to ultimately raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma,” she said.
The Pavilion’s particular focus is on “women who use substance as a coping skill because of the violence they experience, as well as those who are forced into addiction as a means of power and control.”
She added that the Pavilion meets “everyone where they are at in terms of their substance abuse.” This may be just providing support and a sympathetic ear, she said, or it may be referring people to treatment centres, or connecting them with the appropriate services in the community.
The goal is to help people make “the best decisions for their life where they are at now.”