Writing messages of hope in New West amid overdose crisis

The community is being invited to write messages of hope to commemorate lives lost to the overdose crisis in recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day.

Overdose Awareness Day is held every year on Aug. 31 to raise awareness of the overdose crisis and reduce stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs.

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This year, the New Westminster Overdose Community Action Team (NWOCAT) is inviting community members to write messages of hope, which will be displayed as a mural in the window of the Russell Housing Centre, operated by Lookout Housing and Health Society for a week starting Aug. 30.

“The opioid overdose crisis doesn’t discriminate. We need to work together to make sure those using substances, especially alone in their own residences, know it’s OK to reach out and get help,” said Aamir Bharmal, Fraser Health medical health officer.

“New Westminster is known for being a caring and connected community. We need to work together to change the conversation from shame to support. Until we do, more of our friends and loved ones will fall victim to this crisis.”

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 740 Carnarvon Street at Russell Housing. Use the entrance on Alexander Street.

NWOCAT was formed in May 2018 as part of a provincial government response to the 18 hardest hit communities by the overdose crisis. The overdose community action teams are intended to develop “innovative, local and relevant ways” to mitigate the overdose crisis.

In New Westminster, 35 people died of overdoses in 2018, and while the rate of fatal overdoses has dropped significantly in the first six months of 2019, the rate of overdoses themselves has not.

Throughout the province, more than 3,600 people have died of overdoses since a public health emergency was declared in 2016.

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