In 2022, 513 calls were made to paramedics for overdose/drug poisoning and 40 opioid-related deaths occurred in Vernon. Illicit drug toxicity is now the leading cause of death in B.C. for people between the ages of 10 and 59.
According to Health Canada, fentanyl was involved in 76 percent of all overdose deaths, though an increasing number involve more than one substance. More than 80 percent of the drug-related deaths this year happened indoors, nearly half of them in a home. Over 1,200 deaths have been attributed to toxic drugs in the first six months of 2023.
We are losing our family, friends and neighbours to this crisis, and often, it feels like there is nothing we can do about it. Attempts from the government and local services fall short, and we are left to scramble for some ounce of hope for the ones we love. How do we fix this problem? Can it be fixed? What are we missing that must be done to make this all better?
There is so much stigma and shame around drug use. There is fear there, too. Drug use, mental health issues, addiction and everything that comes with it do not discriminate. We all know someone who has lost themselves in their own battles, drug use, lifestyle and pain. At The Mission, we serve many people from varying walks of life and welcome everyone to use our services. We do our best to offer care and support and to always remind each person that God loves them and that they matter.
In 2022, our staff collectively responded to 15 overdose/drug poisonings where we had to administer Narcan. And unfortunately, one of these resulted in us losing a valued community member. Losing a community member was hard on all of us, staff and guests alike. This crisis affects all of us in Vernon. This is a community issue, and one we need to address collectively.
Caring for the vulnerable in our community is incredibly important. It’s our responsibility to look out for one another, especially those struggling or facing difficult circumstances. Whether it’s offering a helping hand, donating to a local charity, or simply checking in on our neighbours, there are so many ways we can make a positive impact in the lives of those around us. It’s important to remember that we are all in this together, and by lifting each other up and showing compassion, we can create a stronger and more supportive community.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the issue of toxic drugs, addiction or mental health. There are multiple answers, layers and ways for all of us to be involved in helping support and care for each other. We all have a role to play, and we must step into those roles however we can. In the words of Father Gregory Boyle, “Kinship– not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not “a man for others”; he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.”
One simple but effective way to effect change around the issue of toxic drugs and the opioid crisis, is education. Narcan training, education around drug use, and finding ways to take away the stigma all are important and helpful but also achievable things we can collectively participate in.
Please consider joining us at the local International Overdose Awareness Day event at The Vernon Towne Theater Thursday August 31st.
4:00pm – Talking Circle at Cenotaph Park recognizing the countless loved ones lost to toxic drug crisis
5:00pm – Vernon Towne Theater: Naloxone training, Vernon drug testing info, Community resources and MSTH table
6:00pm – Film screening Love in the time of Fentanyl
7:30pm – Panel discussion
To learn more and get your tickets, click the link below.