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Hope groups working to end the stigma over overdose deaths

International Overdose Awareness Day marked with information and resource booth at Memorial Park
At the entrance to Memorial Park by 3rd Avenue, HATS and Fraser Health set up a booth for International Overdose Awareness Day (Aug. 31). (Kemone Moodley/Hope Standard)

As people around the world remembered those they’d lost to overdoses, Fraser Health and the Hope and Area Transition Society (HATS) did their part to raise awareness on the issue in Hope.

At the entrance to Memorial Park by 3rd Avenue, HATS and Fraser Health set up a booth for International Overdose Awareness Day (Aug. 31). All throughout the day, workers welcomed everyone to their blue booth, providing information around overdosing and the misconceptions surrounding it.

“Overdosing, it’s not a homeless issue. It’s not an addicts’ issue. It’s a human issue,” says Taylor Smith, a community and homeless outreach worker for HATS. “Addiction has no conscience. It can happen to anyone at anytime. And I think its important to lead with compassion and understanding for those in your community who might be suffering, or who have suffered in the past.”

Those who visited the booth were also offered a variety of “goodies” such as wristbands, wild flower seeds, and naloxone kits — which came with a five-minute lesson on how to use it.

Naloxone, which is sold under the brand name Narcan, is medication used to temporarily reverse the effects of opioids such as fentanyl, heroin, and morphine. It can help counter decreased breathing in opioid overdoses and can take three to five minutes to work, when injected into the muscle.

“Knowing how to administer naloxone is key,” says Hannah Vanwerkhoven, HATS’ MHSU community connector. “You can be a hero to somebody. It doesn’t matter if you don’t hang out with people who use [opioids]. It can happen anywhere.”

Vanwerkhoven, like many of the workers at the booth, encourages people to do naloxone training if they can and to educate themselves on overdosing — what it looks like, the stigmas attached to it, and how you can help.

Smith also encourages people — both who use opioids and those who don’t — to be aware of the support systems available to those struggling with addiction and wanting help.

“There’s help available if you want to ask for help,” says Smith. “If there’s somebody in your life who’s asking for help, there is help available. And there is a community for addiction and homelessness. There are people out there who won’t judge you. And they’re going to be there for you. Just reach out, if that’s what you’d like.”

International Awareness Overdose Awareness Day is an annual campaign that takes place around the world. According to their site, the mission of the campaign is to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died, and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind.

Every year thousands of people in B.C. die from overdoses and 89 per cent of them happen while alone. In 2021, 2,264 people died of overdoses. And in 2022 so far, 1095 people have died of overdoses.

To learn more about overdoses, and how you can help, visit

READ MORE: Mother mourns teenage son lost to drug overdose


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Kemone Moodley

About the Author: Kemone Moodley

I began working with the Hope Standard on August 2022.
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