On April 14, 2016, the increasing number of opioid overdoses prompted the Province to declare a public health emergency. Six years later, close to 1,500* family members, friends, coworkers, teammates, neighbours and friends have been lost to overdose within the Interior Health region alone.
In recognition of this sombre anniversary, IH mental health and substance use teams and community partners will display black balloons in communities across Interior Health on April 14. This acknowledgement of all those lost is inspired by international Black Balloon Day which took place on March 6.
“Interior Health continues to expand harm reduction measures and invest in mental health and substance use services,” says Interior Health president and CEO, Susan Brown. “We know the steps taken over the last six years, such as distribution of Take Home Naloxone kits, introduction of drug-checking services, opening new supervised consumption services and expanding substance use treatment, have saved countless lives. Unfortunately, the crisis continues in the face of an increasingly unpredictable, poisonous drug supply. We never lose sight of the lives lost and continue to work hard to expand access to harm reduction and treatment.”
Across Interior Health, mental health and substance use services have been expanding alongside increasing overdose prevention services. New youth substance use services including inpatient treatment, counselling, intensive case management and withdrawal management beds have been added recently, along with record investments in adult substance use services.
If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available. Call 310-MHSU or visit interiorhealth.ca to learn more.
How can you help?
- On April 14, display black balloons at your business/home.
- Take the pledge – avoid stigmatizing language around substance use.
- Carry a naloxone kit and learn how to use it. Find a location where you can get a kit and training.
- Start a conversation – whether you are a parent, friend, or colleague, talking about overdose prevention and substance use is a crucial step.
- Learn how to identify and respond to an overdose. Call 911 in case of overdose – the Good Samaritan law can protect people from drug possession charges if they experience or call 911 after witnessing an overdose.
*BC Coroner's Service Drug Toxicity Reports 2016 - 2022