FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — A local woman is encouraging residents to attend the International Overdose Awareness Day event in Fort St. John at the Festival Plaza at the end of the month.
The local Overdose Awareness Day event will be on August 31st from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. featuring informative booths, free lunch and a vigil to remember individuals who passed due to the overdose crisis.
Heather Boswell with Healing Hearts said the event raises awareness and educates more people about overdoses and the toxic drug crisis.
“A lot of people aren’t really aware of what’s going on with this crisis that has killed thousands of people,” Boswell said.
She hopes residents will realize those affected by the overdose crisis are human beings.
“They’re somebody’s mother, father, brother, sister. They’re just people. So looking down on them isn’t the answer. They need help,” Boswell said.
She thinks the attitude in northern B.C. needs to change before the overdose crisis can be adequately addressed.
“People aren’t looking at the whole picture, they’re looking at this with tunnel vision, so they don’t see what really is going on, and they just make assumptions. Ask questions if you don’t know,” Boswell said.
“Generally, people that are addicted have mental health issues that haven’t been dealt with, so they medicate, or people who have been prescribed drugs by doctors for pain, and when that supply is out, they are still addicted, so they need to find it on the street.”
Part of the issue of street drugs is the toxic drug supply, which she said is only getting worse.
“The only way to fix that is a safe supply,” Boswell said.
“I know people freak out, and they start complaining about ‘oh, the government giving drugs to people.’ You’ve got to look at the whole picture, again, not just that one little portion.”
Another component to combatting the overdose crisis in Fort St. John is the overdose prevention site (OPS), which found a new location on 100th Avenue last November.
The OPS will offer a safe supply, a place to get substances tested and many other wraparound services.
“There are doctors for wound care, there is help to get off your addiction, there are counsellors for that,” Boswell explained.
“It’s such a large, great thing they’re doing for the city and for the people. The benefits of an OPS far outweigh not having one.”
She added how the two OPS closures in Dawson Creek — Society for Narcotic and Opioid Wellness (SNOW) and the Nawican Friendship Centre — were a detriment.
According to the most recent B.C. Coroners Service report, the northeast region reported eight illicit drug overdoses so far in 2023.
Many groups will be represented at the plaza during the Overdose Awareness Day event to answer people’s questions.
“A lot of people don’t know, so they come in, and they start asking questions, and then they find answers. They can ask any question they want because people are curious, but they don’t know who to talk to,” Boswell said.
“They’re going to find a lot of information there because there are so many different groups that represent different parts of this crisis.”
She wants residents who attend the event on August 31st to realize the crisis isn’t going away.
“It seems to be getting worse. I believe that the governments, including our city council and mayor, have a responsibility,” Boswell said.
“You can talk the talk, but you’re not willing to walk the walk, and something needs to be done. Let’s try to help people, so it isn’t your son or your daughter that passes because of that.”
The full community round-up with Boswell can be viewed below: