August 31 marks International Overdose Awareness Day, and events were held in Regina to raise awareness about overdoses, with one highlighting the alarming reality of drug use in the province.
“We are in the midst of a crisis situation where huge numbers of people are looking for help,” said Rand Teed, addictions counselor and educator.
At the All Nations Hope Network in Regina, an opioid addiction treatment clinic was held with a community gathering and a free barbecue.
And while residents were receiving overdose prevention strategies, in an alley a few yards away, Regina firefighters and paramedics attended to a man who had just overdosed.
Rescuers were able to resuscitate the man at the scene.
In 2022, the province had 337 confirmed overdose deaths, according to the coroner’s office.
As of August 1, 2023, 92 drug poisoning deaths have been confirmed this year. This figure is expected to rise as another 200 suspected overdose deaths are currently under investigation.
Teed said there simply isn’t enough capacity in the province for safe addiction sites and treatment centers.
“Treatment centers are at capacity almost all the time,” Teed said. “Moose Jaw Detox, for example, has 28 men and 20 women on its waiting list. So, systematically, we don’t have enough capacity.
Lack of spots isn’t the only problem Teed sees with the system. He says the current system rarely addresses the root causes of what drives people to use drugs, such as untreated trauma or lack of housing.
“It takes some trauma therapy, but it also takes some life sk**ls management,” he said of the treatment progress.
“Sometimes you have to have a financial education so they can, you know…be a little more organized in their lives so they don’t have as much stress.
Rob Kraushaar, a licensed social worker and member who attended a community rally in Regina, said people need to be patient with people struggling with addiction.
“People are sick right now and we need more compa*sion and working together to figure out what’s best for them and deal with it in a humane way,” he said.
In Saskatoon, a public day of remembrance, advocacy and community relations was organized by Knox Talks and Metis Nation Saskatchewan.
Barb Fornssler, a medical researcher at the University of Saskatchewan School of Public Health, said more events like today need to happen so people don’t forget the very real threat.
“Ending that stigma — that’s really what International Drug Overdose Day is all about,” she said. “It’s about engaging in that conversation and consciously thinking about ‘what is my relationship with substances, what is the relationship I would like to have with substances, and what are the resources and supports in my community if I want to change my relationship. with substances.’”
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