Pubdate: Fri, 26 May 2017
Source: Metro (Calgary, CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Metro Canada
Author: Elizabeth Cameron
Page: 18


Families in city honour the 559 who died from opioids in 2016

Calgarians left behind by fatal overdoses last year came together to
remember their loved ones on Wednesday, just one week after the
province released staggering new numbers on the crisis.

It's the last thing we ever expected to happen to us Barbara Saunders,
who lost her son Merlin to an accidental fentanyl overdose in late

Last year, 559 people died in our province from drug overdoses,
according to the latest report from Alberta Health, which said 363 of
those Albertans died from a fentanyl-related overdose and 196 from
other opioids, such as codeine.

Fentanyl is a potent opioid that is often prescribed for pain and
commonly replicated on the street with even more dangerous analogues.

The group gathered at Hillhurst United Church and made a
Tibetan-inspired prayer flag for each person who died.

"The idea is, you hang them and the threads come off one-by-one in the
wind, and those thoughts and hopes are taken to the person you've
created the flag for," said Rosalind Davis, co-founder of Changing the
Face of Addiction (CFA), which organized the event.

Barbara Saunders drove from Vancouver to be at the event and visit her
son's girlfriend, Alex, who moved to Calgary when he died from a
fentanyl overdose in December 2016.

"It wasn't his regular using that killed him, it was fentanyl - he
didn't know," Saunders said as she painted a prayer flag for her son.
"It's the last thing we ever expected to happen to us."

She said Merlin had been clean for months, but unknowingly took
fentanyl during a relapse.

"He wanted nothing more than to be free of it and have a normal life,"
Saunders said.

When she heard the event was on May 25, Saunders said she knew she had
to come - it would have been Merlin's 27th birthday.
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