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UPDATE: This article has been changed as the FSJ Community Action team is hosting the event with support from Urban Matters.

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – An upcoming event is raising substance use and overdose awareness while providing families with an opportunity to honour loved ones.

The Fort St. John Community Action Team, a coalition of several different local health and social agencies, First Nations organizations and different levels of government, is hosting their 4th annual Overdose Awareness Day at Festival Plaza in Centennial Park.

Overdose Awareness Day is an international event that occurs annually on August 31st.

“It’s really meant to create some education and awareness around substance use and overdose, as well as provide an opportunity to honour frontline service providers and those who have lost loved ones to overdose,” said Julianne Kucheran, health and social planner with Urban Matters.

“And to just create a community empathy and community connection around overdose and addiction and create stigma reduction as well.”

The FSJ Community Action team has been hosting an event on the day since 2018.

The day will start with the opening ceremonies at 10 a.m.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get an elder from one of the local first nations to do an opening prayer,” Kucheran said.

“And, we’re looking into getting some drummers as well.”

Then, they are hoping for some words from local political representatives, such as Mayor Lorie Ackerman, who has spoken for them in the past.

In the past, the city has lit up City Hall and the Pomeroy Centre in purple to observe the day, which the FSJ Community Action team will ask for during August 22nd’s council meeting.

After the opening ceremonies, there will be an open house with booths from local service providers.

They’re hoping for the Women’s Resource Society, Community Bridge, and some local peer groups to set up booths and provide information to attendees.

“We’re hoping Northern Health can do some Naloxone training. How to use Naloxone if someone’s undergoing an overdose, to be able to reverse the effects of the overdose and save lives,” Kucheran explained.

There will be art installations as well.

“I think one of the peer groups is doing a memorial project with crosses to honour folks that have passed from an overdose,” she said.

“And then I believe [another peer group], they’re gonna be doing a mask art installation to talk about stigma and taking off the mask.”

At noon, the Salvation Army will be providing lunch with its food truck, and Kucheran is hoping to have some more art on display, as well as a musician and poetry being read during lunch.

After lunch, there will be more time to look at the booths available until 2 p.m.

The closing ceremonies will then begin, focusing on friends and family who lost a loved one.

“We’re also going to have a bunch of candles that people can light in honour of those that we’ve lost,” Kucheran said.

“Just have a closing vigil and remembrance of those we’ve lost in our community.”

The B.C. Coroners Service reported two overdose deaths in the northeast region in June, with a total of 14 so far in 2022.

In 2021, there were 29 overdose deaths in the northeast and the highest happened in 2020, with 34.

By Health Authority in 2022 the highest rate was in Northern health with 53 deaths per 100,000 people.

Event schedule (Urban Matters, FSJ Community Action Team)

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Shailynn Foster

Shailynn Foster is a news reporter for Shailynn has been writing since she was 7 years old, but only recently started her journey as a journalist. Shailynn was born and raised in Fort St. John and she watches way too much YouTube, Netflix and Disney+ during the week while playing DND on the weekends.