Families who have lost loved ones to toxic drugs gathered in downtown Vancouver Friday night to draw attention to the overdose crisis plaguing the province.
Moms Stop the Harm hosted a coffin walk, where people carried coffins symbolizing how many people died in each year since the overdose crisis was declared a public health emergency in 2016, shining a spotlight on the number of deaths, which is soaring.
“When my son dies, and more people are dying every day, something needs to change: attitudes need to change and we need a safe supply,” said Matthew Witt, who marched in honour of his 20-year-old son Sebastian.
Sebastian died from fentanyl poisoning in 2015. He was alone in his bedroom when he died.
Witt believes the stigma prevented his son from asking for help.
“He relapsed the first time. He was OK, but he was, I suppose, humiliated, in a way, that he relapsed, and so he hid,” Witt explained.
Earlier this month, the province released the latest statistics on illicit drug toxicity deaths, showing data for the first six months of the year.
B.C. reached a grim milestone, as more than 10,000 people have died since the health emergency as declared six years ago.
“We have to wrap our minds around the fact that the drugs are toxic, and they will continue to kill. So we need to ask the question: What do we do about the deaths? Not what do we do about addiction?” said Deb Bailey, of the Vancouver chapter of Moms Stop the Harm.
Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said on Aug. 16 that safe supply has been slow to roll out due to the reluctance of some clinicians to prescribe drugs, for a “variety of reasons.”
Bailey said it is time to move faster as the number of causalities continue to climb.
“We really need to iron that out: Who can distribute safe supply? Where do people get it?” she said. “We’re just looking for a regulated, safe, clean supply for people – that’s all. We’re not looking to legalize it or anything. We just need to stop the deaths.”
The group will be hosting more events leading up to International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31.