A local group continues to push for more open dialogue about opioid use in Grande Prairie and will be holding its annual Overdose Awareness Day this weekend.

Peace Country Drug Awareness Coalition member Tyla Savard says 19 people have already died from non-pharmaceutical opioids between January and May 2021 in the city, and believes an open and frank conversation about the ongoing crisis is long overdue. Savard says they’re hoping to help lift the stigma faced by those battling addictions.

“It’s a hard demographic to reach, to connect with, and to offer support because they feel so ashamed,” she says.

“You don’t talk about this, you keep this to yourself and you figure out how to navigate things… even your close family, if they don’t live in your household, they don’t know things are potentially happening.”

Savard says she has seen improvement in some public discourse about addictions and the effects of drugs like fentanyl and hopes that is a sign of things to come. She says the community must continue to connect and share.

“Even when we post something on Facebook, we’ve seen an increase in interactions taking place… that shows people are making that point to have that social awareness take place and not just take note of it and keep scrolling,” she says.

“Every like, every share, and every invite helps to continue that ripple effect and we want to continue that to grow.”

The Overdose Awareness Day event takes place September 19th from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the south side of the Montrose Cultural Centre.