UNAwareness

on International Overdose Awareness Day 2020

a guest post by Corey Ranger

“More people are dying of illicit drug overdoses in B.C. than due to homicides, motor vehicle incidents, suicides and COVID-19 combined.”

On #InternationalOverdoseAwarenessDay (IOAD2020) I am equal parts enraged and dismayed. You should be too. This day is supposed to be about commemorating those we’ve lost and raising awareness about overdose—instead, we are at a point where life-saving harm reduction services are facing defunding and/or closure.

Here in Canada, our efforts to respond to this devastating crisis have taken backseat to a number of other issues, despite overdose deaths surging in every corner of this country.

We’ve taken major steps backwards at the worst possible time. The collateral impacts of the global pandemic combined with an exponentially worsening drug supply has led to unprecedented death rates.In Alberta, the UCP has systematically gaslit supervised consumption services (SCS) and endeavoured to weaponize paternalistic and antiquated treatment services as an alternative to harm reduction.

Tomorrow, Alberta’s (and the world’s) busiest consumption site is closing down. It sees over 800 visits a day, and is being replaced by a mobile van that has capacity for two people at a time. There are deaths on the horizon because of this decision. But the Alberta government won’t even release their overdose stats, and likely hope that we won’t notice the incoming carnage.

This is the same government that produced a methodologically flawed report on SCS, that leaned on the expertise from TV interventionists and failed to consult anyone who worked at or accessed an SCS. This report has had far-reaching and devastating effects on the future of these services.

In British Columbia, the deaths are all around us. While first responders and community organizations bear the brunt, we have a premier who moralizes overdose by suggesting it is a matter of choice, not failed drug law. This is at a time where BC is at its third consecutive month of 170+ deaths from overdose. Breaking all the wrong records.

Whether you’re witnessing the massive surges in overdose deaths in Ontario, or decrying the closure of Nova Scotia’s only supervised consumption service, the writing is on the wall. We are losing ground.

For this #IOAD2020, I’m asking every one of my friends willing to read this post to share in our outrage. These are our children, parents, siblings, friends, and chosen family. If you want to help, then write to your mayor, MLA, and MP—tell them the time is now for:

👏 Decriminalization

👏Low-Barrier #SafeSupply access

👏 Upscaling local HarmReduction services

To those of you who are grieving today, tomorrow, and for the years to come; I am so sorry.