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Advocates urging greater conversation on opioid crisis

A local group is pushing for more open dialogue about opioid use in Grande Prairie. Peace Country Drug Awareness Coalition member Tyla Savard was among a small team of advocates that lined 100 Street Monday to raise awareness of the ongoing opioid crisis.

August 31st marked International Overdose Awareness Day and 2020 marks the fourth year that the movement has been recognized in Grande Prairie. Savard says our community is heavily affected and people need to be working to make a difference.

“We need to be aware that we have two pandemics happening; we have not only COVID but we also have an opioid epidemic that’s been going on for a while and it’s only gotten worse with COVID.”

According to the City of Grande Prairie quarterly report, compared to 2019, the 2020 Q1 proportion of intentional (suicide) drug poisoning deaths involving any opioid type substance increased from 41 to 83 per cent.

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This year’s event looked different from previous years due to COVID-19. Instead of a march downtown with a larger group, a smaller group gathered holding signs and getting the attention of passing traffic.

Savard notes the province didn’t begin tracking fatal accidental opioid overdoses until 2016, at which point a system and process was developed to determine the number of victims. In the Grande Prairie community from 2016 to 2019, it’s reported 97 people died of apparent accidental opioid poisonings. Savard adds from the end of March 2020 to the end of August, an additional 10 overdose fatalities have been reported.

“Every day there’s another family that’s lost someone or has been impacted in some manner. [We’re] trying to connect [the] community together as much as we can to then [build] supports and understanding. We have so many more [people] who don’t actually reach the point of making a stat category because they’re the ones who are high-functioning and they’re the ones who we don’t even know are using.”

Opioid statistics, harm reduction resources, treatment options and other details including local quarterly reports have been made available at the Peace Country Drug Awareness Coalition website

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