Edmonton outreach groups come together to stand in solidarity with people who use substances

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Edmonton community outreach groups, families, people with lived and living experience, and health-care providers gathered Thursday afternoon to stand in solidarity with people who use substances.

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Organizers were aiming to send a message that as drug poisoning deaths continue to increase and the illegal drug supply becomes more toxic and unpredictable, current drug laws continue to amplify suffering and more harm reduction services are needed.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of options for folks in regards to substance use in the street. And so, we just were kind of a little bit sick and tired of the drug war and so we wanted to take a break, where we just came out and showed solidarity,” said Shanell Twan, with the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs.

“(We wanted) to come out and let folks know that we stand with you, that you are valued, you are loved, and that you have inherent value as a human being, and that your community cares about you.”

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Moms Stop the Harm, Boots on Ground, AAWEAR, Bear Clan Patrol, and Water Warriors were some of the outreach groups involved in the event that was part of “War on Drugs Armistice Day” that had groups participating across Alberta.

“We’re really sick and tired to be on the front line every day and see folks dying in exorbitant numbers,” Twan said. “It’s always sad, because it’s always reduced to statistics and the numbers, and these aren’t numbers, these are people, these are people’s lives and we can and we should do better.”

Volunteers set up a small tent in a snow packed parking lot on the north side of 106 Avenue between 96 and 95 Street providing winter gear such as warm clothes, hand warmers, gloves and toques as well as drinks and food for a steady stream of attendees between 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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Some were on standby to respond to overdoses and promote safety. Overdose response training was also offered and naloxone distributed.

Twan said the event took about a couple of weeks to organize and more than $2,000 was raised in donations.

Following the event, outreach teams planned to go into neighbourhoods to provide safer use supplies and distribute naloxone.

According to the latest provincial data, between January and August of this year, 1,026 Albertans died of a drug poisoning. A total of 378 Edmontonians have died so far this year from a drug poisoning.

ajunker@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/JunkerAnna

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