Pubdate: Thu, 24 Aug 2017
Source: Cape Breton Post (CN NS)
Copyright: 2017 Cape Breton Post
Author: Nikki Sullivan
Page: A3


Overdose awareness event equal parts memorial and educational

The Ally Centre of Cape Breton is hosting an event for International
Overdose Awareness Day to remember those lost to overdose and bring
awareness to the opioid crisis on the island.

"Each year we try to make an impact, somehow, to draw attention to
overdose and the effect it's having on our communities," explained
Christine Porter, executive director of the Ally Centre.

 From 2008-2016, there have been 169 overdose deaths in CapeBreton.

"It's disheartening to know that we lost this many lives … There would
be a whole lot more than that if we went back to 2003," Porter said.

"It was all avoidable if we had of had the measures in place that they
are putting in place now."

These measures include a new government-funded program that allows
anyone to get a Naloxone kit and training to use it for free. Naloxone
is a drug effective in helping stop an opioid overdose.

Porter's dedication to trying to help those suffering from addiction
is evident as she talks about the opioid crisis, which started in Cape
Breton in 2003 with oxycodone.

"I just find it disturbing, to say the least, that it's only now that
it's being recognized as a problem, since the whole fentanyl stuff has
come on board. Because we have been experiencing this since 2003," she

Mike Webber is a father who lost his son, Evan, to opioid overdose in
May. Evan was only 29 and left behind a wife and two young daughters,
ages eight and five.

Mike said he thinks about Evan every day.

"I keep waiting for it to get easier but it seems to be getting
harder," he explained.

"I just sold my home and I'm moving out and I think, 'I need help with
this, I'll give Evan a call.' Then it dawns on me - he's gone. I'm
going through the cupboards and there's food I don't want and I think,
'Ah, I'll take this down to Evan.' You know, it never leaves."

Mike believes education is a way to help people understand the dangers
of drug use and the struggle of getting off the drugs once addicted.

"The thing with Evan was every day when I talked with him on the phone
all he wanted was his family back. The drug had so much power over the
thing he wanted most in the world. It's so sad. That just shows me how
much power the drug has over you," he said.

Porter works closely with users and sees first-hand how they struggle
to get clean and wishes more people could understand the illness of

"With users, even knowing it is fentanyl they are buying, they are
willing to take it because there is nothing else they can get. All
that information we give them for prevention goes out the door," she

"People (who aren't users) wouldn't understand that, how sick these
people are and how afraid of withdrawal they are … nobody thinks it
will happen to them. But it can. And it does."

In the past, the Ally Centre has put up crosses with the names of
people who have died by overdose in public areas on International
Overdose Awareness Day.

This year, they are holding an event at the Wentworth Park bandshell
on Aug. 31. It starts at noon and there will be live music, speakers
and Naloxone kits to take for free. Training for these will take place
there too.

The goals of the event are to bring awareness to the problem, to stop
the stigma associated with drug use and overdose and to remember those
who have lost their lives to overdose.

"It gives us an opportunity to reflect on the lives of loved ones who
have died by overdose and a chance to group together in support and
move forward,

"People should never feel shame over the loss of a loved one, no
matter what they died from," Porter said.
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