Today is International Overdose Awareness Day with several online events planned all week.
Opening ceremonies take place at 11 a.m., with an online methamphetamine webinar on Wednesday, online Naloxone training on Thursday, and a live Facebook feed of Memorial Flower Planting on Friday.
Brooke Bertrand is a Registered Psychotherapist in the Addictions Program at the Community Counselling Centre of Nipissing.
She tells Country 600 that there are a couple of goals with International Overdose Awareness Day locally and around the world.
"It was started in 2001 in Melbourne, Australia and it's become an international event," she says. "Here in North Bay, the goal for us and for other events around the world is to bring remembrance to those that have been injured or died as a result of substance overdose. As well as to talk openly about preventing overdoses and the harm reduction philosophy when it comes to treating substance use disorders."
Meagan Deutekom is the Hepatitis C Community Coordinator with the AIDS Committee of North Bay and Area and sits on the Harm Reduction Pillar, which organizes Overdose Awareness Day locally each year.
She says on top of creating awareness they're looking to reduce stigma.
"As a society, we're surrounded by deep stigmatization towards people who use drugs from health inequality and discriminatory policies. Socially excluding those whose reality we don't understand is a common practice in our society, unfortunately," she says.
"The stigma just further disconnects people and it pushes them away, it disconnects us as a community, as a society. For some people Overdose Awareness Day is every day, people grieving the loss of their family members, children, parents, spouses, and many others."
The local health unit says in 2018, there were 99 opioid-related emergency department visits and 14 deaths related to opioid use, among Nipissing and Parry Sound residents. In 2019, this increased to 138 opioid-related emergency department visits and 18 deaths in the same geographical area.
Members from the Nipissing West Detachment of the OPP will be conducting door-to-door opioid awareness and education initiatives in the downtown area of Sturgeon Falls. Officers will distribute cards and posters to residents and businesses to promote the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act while remembering those who lost their lives to an overdose.
Several groups are involved with the community effort including the AIDS Committee of North Bay and Area, Community Counselling Centre of Nipissing, North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre and Nipissing First Nation.
"The reality is that overdose can affect anyone in Ontario," said Christine Elliott, Minister of Health. "They could be our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, or our friends and colleagues. Today is an opportunity for Ontarians to share experiences, stories, learn more about the available mental health and addictions resources, including harm reduction and treatment services, that are offered in every corner of the province, and to help spread the word that overdose is preventable."