Local groups mark overdose awareness day

Immediate Release

August 13, 2012


Victoria. Local agencies that work with people who use illicit drugs are marking International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31 with a ceremony to remember those who have died from overdose and to inform the public about the importance of decreasing the risk of future overdoses. The Victoria AIDS Resource & Community Service Society (VARCS), AIDS Vancouver Island, the Society of Living Illicit Drug Users (SOLID) and Peers Victoria Resource Society are working together to highlight the need for a community response to the prevention of overdose deaths.

“Our organizations work with people who are at risk,” explains Karen Dennis, Executive Director of VARCS. “Society tends to think of illicit drug users as disposable. We are all people; we all have family and friends who care, and there are things we can do to prevent the deaths of our loved ones and community members.”

Katie Lacroix, Peer Outreach Worker of SOLID agrees. “Our members are people who are incredibly marginalized and incredibly resilient. Drugs and alcohol are a way for them to cope with the reality of the pain in their lives. We are also a vital part of the solution and we take action everyday to reduce the risks associated with drug use, including overdose.”

Within the Vancouver Island Health Authority, fixed site needle exchange and supervised consumption services are still notably absent in Victoria; a situation that increases the risk for illness and overdose amongst people who use drugs. The BC Centre for Disease Control is developing a program to increase access to naloxone (Narcan), a safe and effective antidote to opiate overdose, but this resource is not yet available.

“Overdose impacts us all,” says Marion Little, Executive Director of Peers Victoria Resource Society. “We need to have the resources in place to make sure that people who use substances have access to information and support to reduce their risk.”

The August 31 ceremony will include several speakers, honouring those who have died from overdose, and information about to prevent and respond to overdose.


International Overdose Awareness Day Ceremony

Friday August 31, 10am

corner of Pandora and Quadra

media contact: Karen Dennis, Executive Director of VARCS

250-388-6220, karendennis@varcs.org

SOLID condemns policing of visible drug trade

SOLID recently sent a letter to the Times Colonist regarding their revealing of the VicPD’s undercover sting called “Rock the Block”:

“As an organization that provides outreach services to people who use illicit drugs, we are deeply disturbed by the recent article (K. Derosa, June 14, 2012) revealing the results of VicPD’s undercover sting called “Rock the Block.” In an effort to target the “open air drug trade,” two months of police resources culminated in 16 arrests this past Tuesday and Wednesday.  Ten of the 12 named in the paper had no fixed address, evidence of the targeting of the street community, those who are living in poverty and who may be “trafficking” small quantities of illicit drugs for daily survival, if they are indeed convicted. The research is clear that disrupting the street level drug trade increases violence and makes marginalized people more vulnerable. Printing the names of the individuals who are innocent, until proven guilty, further stigmatizes these individuals. The fact that the police spent Tuesday outside Our Place with their list of people to arrest, using public displays of unnecessary force to take down their victims, served to keep people away from one of the few places to get hot food in Victoria.  It is clear that the approach to removing the “open-air” or “visible” drug trade is a colossal waste of money that addresses the symptoms, as opposed to the root causes of drug use, addiction, trauma, homelessness and poverty. As a community, we all need to understand addiction as a health issue, not a criminal issue.  We need to dedicate more resources to harm reduction services, including supervised consumption services, to make Victoria a safer community for all citizens.”

-Society of Living Illicit Drug Users, a peer-run organization


Community Solidarity for Harm Reduction Week

May 28-June 2 is now declared “Community Solidarity for Harm Reduction Week”

SOLID, in partnership with AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI), Universities Without Walls (UWW) and other harm reduction organizations in Victoria held a week of events aimed at reflecting on the struggles for harm reduction in Victoria, while highlighting the successes in other parts of the country.

The main event SOLID worked on was the Peer Convergence where 11 members of our latest Leadership Street College educational curriculum ran a day of workshops around drug use as a health issue, not a criminal issue; decriminalization and legalization of drugs; local harm reduction issues; local policing issues, among others. The day was a great success with about 80 people attending the event! Much was learned and shared.

Pivot Legal Society ran a workshop on their Yimby Toolkit that week and participated in the “Why Insite Won” event. They did a great job of summarizing the week in this article below. Please click on it to read their blog post.