EDMONTON — Each year, August 31 marks International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD). It is an opportunity to mourn those we have lost, and to refocus our collective work to end overdose and drug poisoning in our communities. Alberta continues to set records for drug poisoning deaths with 1,630 lives lost in 2022, and we are on track to set records again this year. IOAD is a day to commit to doing better.
“This year’s International Overdose Awareness Day comes at a time when Albertans are continuing to die in record numbers from drug poisonings,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “This is a heartbreaking crisis. Families and communities will gather tomorrow to mourn their losses with the knowledge that each of these deaths would have been avoidable had they had proper access to community supports and services. Every drug poisoning death is a policy failure.”
The provincial government continues to push the government’s so-called “recovery-oriented system of care” while ignoring the wealth of evidence in support of harm reduction programs. They have refused to change course even as a record number of Albertans die, and as the crisis continues to impact our entire public health care system. This summer, Treaty 6 Chiefs declared a state of emergency over opioid deaths, while Alberta’s EMS have continued to see record calls to respond to overdose-related events and frontline service providers are seeing a spike in drug poisonings — all of which could be avoided if the government listened to those on the ground and changed their ideological approach.
“Right now in Alberta, six people are dying by drug poisoning every single day. To see this government continue to tout their failed approach as a success while so many people in our communities continue to suffer just adds insult to injury,” said Gallaway. “This is a public health crisis and we must start treating it as one. We need a government that can listen to what communities are telling them and urgently change course. The premier and the minister continue to pit harm reduction against treatment, but it’s clear we need both. There is no chance of recovery if you are dead.”
Friends of Medicare continues to encourage Albertans to support our calls for urgent action to save lives in the drug poisoning crisis.
International Overdose Awareness Day events will be held in many communities in Alberta and across the country. You can find a list of events on the Moms Stop the Harm website: https://www.momsstoptheharm.com/ioad23
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