Naloxone kits only go so far. Organizers of the National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis are demanding safer access to opioids. (File photo)

Vancouver Island advocates demand safe supply of opioids

The #SafeSupply NOW! cry is part of the National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis on April 16

People affected by the opioid crisis say they are tired of the federal government’s silence, and are ready to make some noise at this year’s National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis rally.

Hundreds are set to gather in Victoria’s Centennial Square on April 16 with pots, pans and anything loud. One of those people is Jennifer Howard, whose son Robbie died of a fentanyl overdose in 2016 when he was 24.

Now Howard is a member of Moms Stop the Harm and the South Island Community Overdose Response Network (SICORN). Together, these groups are partnering with the Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs to demand an immediate supply of safe, predictable narcotics for those most at risk of overdose, in a movement called #SafeSupply NOW!

ALSO READ: Moms of those killed by illicit opioids take to B.C. Legislature in call for action

“Tuesday is about getting to the core of what can be done, and a national response to this crisis includes safer substances and decriminalization of drugs,” Howard said. “Safer substances save lives, we know that people feel criminalized in their drug use… they’re not coming forward for the help and treatment that they need.”

At the beginning of April, the Public Health Agency of Canada released a new report that said between 2016 and 2018, over 10,000 people had died of an opioid overdose.

In B.C., 1,510 people died of an opioid overdose in 2018. Of those, 96 were Victoria residents, meaning the capital has the the third-highest mortality following Vancouver and Surrey.

ALSO READ: Youngest opioid overdose victim in B.C. last year was 10 years old

“What worries a lot of us is people have become numb, they see reports and they become desensitized,” Howard said. ” My son is one of those statistics. My vision is, if I could have relayed Robbie’s life, he could have walked into a physician’s office and said he needs help and been prescribed something that wasn’t tainted, and at the same time offered other resources; a councillor, therapy.

ALSO READ: Victoria councillors push for access to safe drugs

Decriminalization models in countries like Portugal have shown significant improvement in crimes rates and fatalities and been more effective, Howard said, than the band-aid solutions currently enacted by the Canadian government.

“We cannot incarcerate our way out of this crisis; our jails are full of people struggling with this addiction to no relief.”

The event runs Tuesday, April 16 beginning at noon at Centennial Square, and march to the Ministry of Health building at 151 Blanshard St.

For more information, you can visit the event’s Facebook page.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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