The City of Delta, Delta Police and Delta School District recently launched a new joint campaign aimed at reducing the stigma surrounding substance use and making it easier for people to seek support and treatment.
B.C. hit a grim milestone in the first quarter of 2021, as 498 people lost their lives to illicit drug overdoses — the most fatal overdoses ever recorded in the first three months of the year. The death toll in March, 158, tied the record for the most ever recorded in that month set in 2018, marking a 41 per cent increase from March 2020.
Last month marked five years since B.C. declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, and in that time there were over 7,000 illicit drug toxicity deaths in the province — 1,723 of those in 2020, making last year the worst on record.
Delta is not immune to the crisis — 19 people lost their lives due to overdoses in the city last year, and BC Ambulance Service paramedics attended 176 overdose calls, equal to about one every two days. In the first four months of 2021, paramedics attended 65 overdoes calls in Delta, one-third of those in April alone.
The BC Coroners Service reports that from Jan. 1 to March 31, 2021, most of the overdose deaths in B.C. took place in private residences (56 per cent) or in other residences including social and supportive housing, SROs, shelters, and hotels and other indoor locations (30 per cent). Just 13 per cent of overdose deaths happened outside in cars, on sidewalks and streets, or in parks.
The End the Stigma campaign is designed to raise awareness about the overdose crisis in B.C. and help end the stigma facing those who use substances, making it easier for them to ask for help.
“The stigma surrounding substance use and addiction negatively impacts people who use substances, their families and loved ones. Our communities are impacted by the stigma around substance use,” Mayor George Harvie said in a press release.
“Our aim is to reduce the stigma faced by people of all ages and remove barriers for seeking treatment and support. We all have a role to play in supporting those who use substances, and by educating ourselves on the issue, we can build a healthier, more caring community.”
Through social media channels and bus shelter advertising, among other streams, the campaign aims to educate residents about the steps the City of Delta has taken to support residents in need, and to inform residents about the various mental health and substance use supports that exist in the community.
“Until the stigma associated with substance use and addiction ends, our loved ones will continue to be lost to overdose. It is our collective responsibility to be compassionate and non-judgemental, and to provide access to mental health and addiction services. Ending the stigma associated with substance use and addiction will mean that all members of our community — including students and their families — will reach out and ask for help when they need it,” Joanna Angelidis, director of learning services — inclusive learning with the Delta School District, said in a press release.
For more on the campaign and links to resources in the city, visit delta.ca/services/social-planning/endthestigma.
— with files from Katya Slepian