Community gatherings planned to mark International Overdose Awareness Day

Grey Bruce Public Health will be joining community partners and residents on Thursday, August 31st (2023), in marking International Overdose Awareness Day.

The annual, global awareness event is an opportunity to shine a light on the opioid crisis – including in Grey-Bruce – as well as to remember, without stigma, those who have died from drug overdose/poisoning, and acknowledge the grief of those who have lost loved ones to substance-related harms.

“The undeniable truth is the opioid toxicity crisis spares no corner of our community. Grappling with the complexity and intricacies of this issue necessitates the united effort and collective determination of every facet of our society. The unity of purpose is indeed crucial,” says GBPH Physician Consultant Dr. Rim Zayed.

“International Overdose Awareness Day and associated events in Grey-Bruce are important opportunities to raise awareness of the crisis and spark vital conversations about preventive interventions surrounding substance use, harm reduction, and strategies that can effectively curtail opioid-related deaths. In embracing this day with compassion and understanding, we move closer to the shared goal of safeguarding lives and fostering a future free from the devastating impact of opioid-related harms.”

Several community gatherings are set to take place in Grey-Bruce on Aug. 31, 2023, in recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day. They include:

  • A Speakers and Breakfast BBQ from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Owen Sound Farmers’ Market, 88 8th St. E.;
  • Candlelit Vigil from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Coulter Parkette, 583 Green St., Port Elgin;
  • A Speakers and Candlelit Vigil from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Heritage Square Gazebo, 358 10th St., Hanover;
  • A Vigil & Full Moon Ceremony from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre, 1045 3rd Ave. W., Owen Sound.

Members of GBPH’s Harm Reduction Team will be attending International Overdose Awareness Day community gatherings. Naloxone, a life-saving medication that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, will be available. Kits are also available via Public Health, participating local pharmacies, and community partners.

GBPH will also be using its social media channels to promote International Overdose Awareness Day messaging and events.

The Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health (COMOH) has identified that the opioid epidemic was already a public health crisis before COVID-19, but the pandemic compounded it significantly. Last summer, COMOH identified nine provincial priorities for a robust, multi-sectoral response that is necessary to respond to the crisis.

These priorities include enhancing and ensuring the sustainability of support for substance use prevention and mental health promotion initiatives, with a focus on early childhood through adolescence.

Grey Bruce Public Health is the lead agency undertaking a Locally Developed Collaborative Project that seeks to document and examine current evidence-based intervention strategies aimed at preventing substance use and related harms among youth aged 15 to 24, including those implemented by Ontario public health units, and identify indicators for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of these strategies.

Among the project’s objectives is to determine ways to enhance the effectiveness of substance use prevention efforts and address any existing gaps.

The project is slated to be shared with Ontario public health units in the early fall.