As the opioid epidemic rages on in Edmonton, an organization continues to reach out to those affected and families who have lost loved ones to drug poisoning.
“We need to heal with others who need to heal,” said Angela Welz, current member and former board member of Mom’s Stop the Harm and moderator of the support group.
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Welz lost her 18-year-old daughter to a fentanyl overdose in 2016 and has been active in the community ever since. She describes her daughter as brilliant and athletic.
“She wasn’t your regular drug user like you would think … she was a young girl experimenting and she got a toxic dose of drugs and died.”
Overall opioid-related deaths have increased since the pandemic began, provincial data shows, with Edmonton having the highest death toll in November and December 2021. Although the number of deaths has since declined, there were still 42 drug poisoning deaths in Edmonton alone in June.
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The state government celebrated this decline.
However, Welz said it’s not really positive overall.
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“In the end, one is too many,” she says. “It seems that the rest of society doesn’t understand what these deaths are doing to families. Why do we allow five people to die from toxin poisoning every day in Alberta? It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
The Alberta government has been slowly scaling back its harm reduction efforts since the spring, an option for a more abstinence-based approach. But Prohibition, along with the supply of toxic drugs, is what kills people, Welz said. There must be both harm reduction and recovery-focused options for people, she said, and that’s not what we’re seeing in the city right now.
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“We have to take it from the core of downtown,” Welz said, because “it’s the average middle-class person who’s experimenting (with substance use) that’s dying.”
Data from the Alberta Health Services Substance Use Surveillance System shows that 73 percent of opioid poisoning deaths in Edmonton are men and 27 percent are women, with the highest median age being between 35 and 39 years. The data does not reflect social status.
Fentayl is the leading cause of accidental deaths from opioid poisoning in Edmonton and throughout Alberta.
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There are 150 member families in Healing Heart’s support groups in Edmonton, and organizers of Wednesday’s event expect a turnout of nearly 400.
“We encourage all those affected to come to the evening,” said Welz. “We are here to lift each other up.”
The event begins at 6:30pm at Victoria Park Site 6 and will include an Indigenous blessing, candlelight vigil and naloxone training by Boyle Street Community Services.
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The High Level Bridge will also light up purple to celebrate those lost to opioid overdoses.
That year, the organization launched the Purple Chair campaign, for which “members painted chairs the overdose-awareness color purple to represent the empty chairs we have in our homes and at our tables,” according to a press release from Mom’s Stop the Harm.
The organization “has sent a purple chair to the Secretary of State for Mental Health and Addiction, Carolyn Bennett, to take home the message about the lack of a coordinated public health response to the ongoing crisis.”
https://globalnews.ca/news/9095142/edmontonians-affected-by-opioid-overdoses-come-together-in-support-for-international-opioid-awareness-day/ Edmontonians affected by opioid overdoses come together in support of International Opioid Awareness Day – Edmonton