April 16 marks the National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis and a local group is taking to the streets to stand in solidarity.
The local event is being planned by Addicts and Allies Humanizing Addiction (AAHA), a local group for those struggling with addiction and people in recovery that meets regularly at AIDS Vancouver Island in downtown Courtenay. The public is invited to join the group and stand in solidarity on Tuesday at 3 p.m. in front of the Courtenay Courthouse.
Scott Issler, who goes by his street name Trigger, has been a part of the group since it began nearly a year ago.
“The main goal we’re trying to get towards is to decriminalize drugs so there’s not this worry about fentanyl killing people,” said Trigger. “People are always going to do drugs … it’s just getting the word out that it’s affecting a lot of people in this community and around the world.”
The national day of action is being co-ordinated by the Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs. According to their Facebook page, the goals of the event include getting the government to declare a national public health emergency, ensure safe drugs supplies, get a drug identification number for heroin, decriminalize people who use drugs and provide emergency funding for overdose prevention sites.
For Trigger, the stigma surrounding addiction and substance use is a huge barrier for people to get the help they need. He hopes the day of action will help to raise some much-needed awareness.
“People feel stigmatized and then their coping skills is to go out and use,” he said. “People look down at them. We’ve done a lot of work to try and destigmatize the whole situation. That’s one of AAHA’s main goals is to reduce the stigma.”
According to data released by the Public Health Agency of Canada, 3,200 Canadians died from opioid-related overdoses between January and September of 2018. Fentanyl was involved in 73 per cent of these deaths.
AAHA will be making up some signs, but attendants are encouraged to come with their own signs as well.