Purple flags at the Derek Doubleday Arboretum, Murrayville Five Corners, and other local sites symbolize the 247 local people who have died from overdose since 2016.
Langley is not immune from the opioid crisis that has killed 10,000 in this province since the government first declared it a public health emergency in April 2016.
“It’s important people understand these deaths are throughout Langley,” said Daniel Snyder, the event organizer and chair of Langley Overdose Response Community Action Team.
“This is not an issue affecting only the homeless or Langley City,” he said, explaining it’s just more visible in the City’s downtown core.
“Overdose deaths occur throughout all of Langley, including in Walnut Grove, Aldergrove, Willoughby, Brookswood and all our surrounding neighbourhoods,” he said. “While the focus is often on the ‘visible’ (homeless) cohort of our community, most drug use remains hidden, and the vast majority of overdose response calls are to private residences.”
The purple flag displays are also at 208th Street and 80th Avenue, and as of Sunday, at the Fort Langley Community Hall.
To help the public better understand the scope of the crisis and also the local resources and options for action, the local action team is hosting an event on Wednesday, Aug. 31, at Douglas Park. The Overdose Awareness Day event starts at 6:30 p.m.
“The event is open to all,” Snyder noted. “Our encouragement to parents of young teens is to start the conversation. Be open. Consider your own biases, and judgments to substance use and people who use drugs. Don’t forget alcohol is a drug too. Parents should use their own discretion in bringing young children. Our aim is to be sensitive and appropriate while making sure our messaging is clear.”
The event includes a community awareness walk from Douglas Park to Innes Corners, a free barbecue, and a candlelight vigil.
“This is our third year doing awareness/memorial displays in the community, the goal of which is to raise awareness, start conversations, and reduce stigma,” he said.
“We believe the overdose death toll is a direct result of failed drug policy in our nation and that the vast majority of these deaths are preventable.”
A B.C. Coroners Service report has indicated that safe supply is not contributing to overdose deaths. Six years into this crisis, the death toll has doubled, Snyder noted.
“It’s time for leaders, policy makers, and government to drastically adjust their approach. Pushing beyond decriminalization, expanding safe supply, and insuring proper resources (such as a health contact center, overdose prevention sites, opioid agonist therapies (OAT, suboxone/methadone), and improved access to detox and treatment facilities) are available in our community is imperative,” he said.
One unique aspect of next Wednesday’s event is the opportunity for the public to take naloxone training.
“There are no health authority stipulated age limits on naloxone training or receiving a kit. We would encourage everyone to get trained. Parents can make their own decision on what is age appropriate for their children,” Snyder said. “Intramuscular naloxone training involves an injection with a vanish point syringe, and some basic training that takes 10 to 20 minutes.”
This event will feature a large resource fair that includes community resources and agencies working in Langley around the issues of overdose, substance use and addiction, recovery and harm reduction.
Agencies taking part in the event include Mom’s Stop the Harm, Lookout Housing Society, Langley Community Services, the Lifeguard App, Wagner Hills, Gateway of Hope, Fraser Health, Encompass, Langley Hospice, The tailgate toolkit, Ishtar Women’s Resource Society, the Foundry, Vision Quest Recovery Society, and more.
“We are very proud of the fact that we are able to bring both harm reduction and recovery-related resources together,” he said.
“There is no reason for divisiveness on different approaches to substance use in our communities. Since substance use happens on a spectrum, and we recognize that research shows that vast majority of substance use in our communities is undertaken responsibly and does not lead to disordered or problematic use, we want to provide resources that enable people to be safe and reduce potential harms. We also recognize that for some substance use can become a problem, and we will continually advocate for improved access to diverse types of treatment and recovery.”
There will be opportunity to learn from the community resources.
There will also be speakers sharing personal stories of their lived experiences from the stage, along with music and memorial opportunities for those in attendance who have lost loved ones, Snyder added.
The organizers have set up a Facebook page with information about the event.