Green Wood Coalition will join communities across Canada to shine a light on the growing opioid crisis by hosting a variety of educational and commemorative events on Saturday, Aug. 31, as part of International Overdose Awareness Day.
This year’s event will have a slightly different focus than last year’s, says Nicole Whitmore, Green Wood Coalition Outreach Worker, by placing a greater emphasis on raising awareness among the entire community — not just those who have been touched by addiction issues.
“We organized the 2018 event literally days after a friend had lost her 21-year-old son to an opioid overdose,” Whitmore explains. “We were very focused on encouraging others who had lost loved ones to come out of hiding and feel supported.”
But this year it’s time, past time, she says, for everyone to become educated about the crisis in our midst by learning about the causes of opioid use, the resources available in Northumberland County and the role each individual can play in lessening the suffering around us.
“Educate yourself about opioids. Educate yourself about addiction. Educate yourself about the wait times for help in this community. Educate yourself about what resources we have here.”
Overall overdose numbers are difficult to access, but the Cobourg Police Service, alone, recorded 59 overdose calls in 2018, six of which resulted in deaths. From January to June 2019, it answered 30 calls. The numbers do not include hospital or EMS responses. In Peterborough, which has the fourth highest overdose death rate in Ontario, police have recorded 22 deaths this year.
“I hear people ask all the time, ‘why don’t they just get help?’, but there’s more to it than that,” Whitmore says. The first part of getting help is not being shunned when you ask for it. And receiving services is not as easy as just saying, ‘I need help.’ It takes time. It takes relationships built on trust for people to break their silence. It takes the compassion of an entire community to solve this problem.”
She hopes the event will start to unravel the complexity of substance use and bring a sense of “humanness” to the crisis.
The event runs from 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 31, at Green Wood Coalition’s booth at the Cobourg Farmer’s Market. Naloxone kits and training, information on addiction services in our area and art supplies to make Flags of Hope in memory of those lost will be available.
New this year will be “Sidewalk Talk Cobourg,” allowing people to pull up chairs and talk, face-to-face, about these issues.
Those interested should also mark Saturday, Sept. 14th, when the Haliburton Kawartha Lakes Northumberland Drug Strategy will host the filming of an interactive public art installation called the Cobourg Unity Project, highlighting the relationship between opioid use, social isolation and the role a compassionate community can play in countering these issues.