The Government of Saskatchewan is recognizing August 31, 2021 as International Overdose Awareness Day. This annual campaign seeks to end overdoses, remember without stigma those who have died, and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind.
“The loss of any life to an overdose, or suspected overdose, is a tragedy and has an impact on families, friends, and communities as a whole,” Mental Health and Addictions Minister Everett Hindley said. “We express our deepest sympathies to those who have lost a loved one as a result of overdose.”
To highlight this important day, the Government of Saskatchewan has partnered with Moms Stop the Harm on an anti-stigma campaign to spread the message about the tragedy of drug overdose death and that drug overdoses are preventable.
“The greatest misconception about overdose is who is dying. We assume our family is exempt from the tragedy of an overdose. In reality, it is the weekend user who is dying. The young man in the trades. The nurse next door. Your sister’s son. This is who is dying,” Director of Moms Stop The Harm Saskatchewan, Marie Agioritis said. “We need to talk openly about it. We need to stay safe and understand what we can do to prevent overdose deaths. Educate yourself. It could save a life.”
The awareness campaign will run on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Connected TV and YouTube), radio, and will feature billboards and print ads in targeted publications.
In addition to this campaign, the Ministry of Health is launching a new website – www.saskatchewan.ca/overdose – that includes safety information for people who are at risk of an overdose, as well as resources for their friends and families.
“Our government is committed to providing a continuum of addictions services that focus on prevention, awareness, harm reduction, education and treatment,” Hindley said. “This includes targeted interventions for opioids and crystal meth use. While awareness is one key pillar of action, our government is also committed to implement initiatives that prevent overdose, save lives and expand treatment bed capacity in our province.”
In Martensville, the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, located at 301 Centennial Drive North, is a community take-home naloxone (THN) dispensing site. “If you or a close friend is at risk of an overdose, you can talk to us confidentially and obtain a free THN kit and training,” owner Jolene Johnson shared via the Medicine Shoppe’s social media.
“Opioid drug overdose is a dangerous reality. Naloxone is a medicine that temporarily reverses the overdose, buying time for help to arrive. Anyone who uses opioid drugs for chronic pain, or those who are addicted, should carry a Naloxone kit. It is also important that a family member has access to one and knows how to use it,” Johnson shared, adding that there will be a “how to” video being shared in upcoming weeks.
The Ministry of Health asks all those using street drugs to not use alone. Use the buddy system or call the National Overdose Response Service (1-888-688-6677). Harm reduction sites across the province offer supplies and counselling, and a site in each of Regina and Saskatoon offers drug checking. Naloxone kits to temporarily reverse opioid overdoses are available throughout the province. Visit www.saskatchewan.ca/opioids for more information.
In the event of an overdose, call 911. Under the Good Samaritan Act, you will not be charged for possession of an illegal substance if you are calling for assistance during an overdose.
The Ministry of Health is investing a record $458 million for mental health and addictions services in 2021-22, an increase of $23.4 million over last year’s budget. The increase includes a significant expansion in harm reduction for three community wellness buses that will provide mobile harm reduction services, an additional 12 treatment and two pre-treatment beds in Estevan, and funding to improve access to harm reduction supplies such as Take Home Naloxone kits and drug checking strips.