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Grande Prairie observes International Overdose Awareness Day

Those who have lost their lives to overdose were honoured Thursday, as Grande Prairie-based non-profit Northreach Society observed International Overdose Awareness Day.

At the event, Northreach representatives spoke on substance poisoning, provided Naloxone kits and education, gave purple flags for attendees to memorialize their lost loved ones, and held a prayer hosted by Indigenous Elder and Native Counselling Service leader Loretta Parenteau-English.

Purple flags representing lost lives (Ethan Montague, staff)

“When we know that other people are struggling with addictions on the street, and their lives are taken, it’s very hard to be aware of it, but this awareness is something that is really needed,” she says.

“It’s really impacting a lot of communities, I’m from southern Alberta, but I live here in northern Alberta too, and when I go back home there’s always funerals as a result of OD’ing,” she adds.

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Parenteau-English is also a leader with Native Counselling Services of Alberta, and says her experience with overdose and addiction in her community is not uncommon from an Indigenous perspective.

Loretta Parenteau-English (Ethan Montague, staff)

“Young children that I never even got to meet, young adults, like that is so hard for their lives to be taken,” she adds.

“Some of them are young parents and they’re leaving children behind; it’s just a cycle but the end result is the loss of life and that is the sad part about it.”

“Sometimes when people have those kids, they’re too high to even administer them, and their lives are taken too as well,” she adds.

According to Northreach Harm Reduction Team Leader Sydney Jewitt, the opioid and overdose crisis remains a focal point, with 48 deaths last year in Grande Prairie alone.

“I think [the event] it’s really important because overdose is such a big problem and we have it in our community,” Jewitt says.

“Lots of times people are thinking- oh that’s not a problem anymore, that’s not a problem here, but it is,” she adds.

(Ethan Montague, staff)

Northreach Society provides harm reduction kits, testing, and education for free at their location in Grande Prairie.

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