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Overdose awareness highlighted in Powell River

Physical distanced demonstration brings attention to BC health emergency
RAISING AWARENESS: Demonstrators recognized the five-year anniversary of BC’s health emergency for substance-related harms recently on the grounds of Powell River General Hospital. The group called on the government to provide a safe supply to combat the deadly and illicit drug supply.

A group of concerned residents, many of whom have been directly affected by the overdose crisis, gathered outside of Powell River General Hospital’s community garden on April 14 to recognize the five-year anniversary of BC’s health emergency for substance-related harms.

Darlana Treloar, from Moms Stop the Harm, said the group was recognizing the national day of action on the overdose crisis.

“This year is the fifth anniversary of BC declaring a public health emergency on the overdose crisis,” said Treloar. “The death toll continues to rise at an alarming rate.

“Today we call on the government to do something. We want a safe supply and we want it now.”

Treloar said the overdose crisis continues to be one of the most devastating public health emergencies of our lifetimes, with more than five people a day dying in BC and a death toll of more than 7,000 people in the last five years.

“We are here today to call for immediate action and an end to the failed war on drugs through prevention, treatment and policy change,” said Treloar.

She said she is Sean’s mom. Sean Robert Treloar became addicted to prescription pills in his teens.

“When he came to me for help, he told me he had no idea what he was getting into when he started,” said Treloar. “Neither did I. It was the beginning of a 10-year battle with the addiction cycle. We lost him to fentanyl poisoning in 2016 here in Powell River. He was 27.

“Now I am a member of Moms Stop the Harm and the community action team. We advocate to help others who are going through it now and pray they don’t fall victim to the same fate.”

Treloar said as part of the demonstration at the hospital garden, there was a display made by a Comox woman who lost her son to fentanyl in 2017. Treloar said the display had pieces of yarn with each representing an overdose death in 2017. The woman who made the display encourages Moms Stop the Harm to use the display in cities and towns and she said it was a very powerful visual.

Treloar said she was pleased with the demonstration to raise awareness. She said she chose 10 people who wanted to participate in the demonstration to call on the government for action.

“I didn’t want to have a big gathering,” said Treloar. “We were observing physical distancing and there were people across the street, so that’s cool.”

In a media release from the provincial government, BC Coroners Service chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said that on April 14, the thousands of people who have lost their lives in BC due to a toxic illicit drug supply were being remembered and grieved.

“I extend my heartfelt condolences to all of those who have lost a beloved family member or friend as a result of the unscrupulous and profit-driven illicit drug market,” stated Lapointe. “The tragic loss of these thousands of individuals underlines the urgent need for a substantial shift in our provincial and national response to problematic substance use.”

According to the release, a new record high for deaths was set in 2020, with 1,724 lives lost in BC. An additional 329 deaths took place in the first two months of 2021.