Demonstrators at the legislature April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

Demonstrators at the legislature April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

Groups offer more support for Canadian families of drug users who have fatally overdosed

The pandemic has disrupted the usual flow of illicit drugs and more toxic fentanyl-laced substances took their place

A support group for families of people who have fatally overdosed is expanding its services across the country to also help those whose loved ones are addicted to illicit drugs.

The Alberta chapter of Moms Stop the Harm has received $345,000 in federal funding over two years to launch the Stronger Together Canada project from Alberta to all other provinces except B.C., which has already established its own program with provincial funding.

Stronger Together B.C. includes two groups: Healing Hearts for people grieving the overdose death of a family member to substance use and Holding Hope for those connected to someone in active addiction.

The B.C. model, which includes input from families and Indigenous communities that are disproportionately affected by the overdose crisis, is being used in Alberta to establish a larger program for the rest of the country.

Helen Jennens, a Moms Stop the Harm spokeswoman in Kelowna, B.C., says the group that began in 2015 with three mothers from B.C. and Alberta has seen a 25 per cent increase in membership in the last three months.

Jennens, whose two sons died of overdose, says the two Stronger Together B.C. groups are led by volunteer facilitators with lived experience.

“We also had a doctor come and talk to us and we’ve had an ex-coroner come and talk to us,” she says.

Jennens says facilitators will receive training to lead each group that will meet online during the pandemic to ensure people in remote communities get help while in crisis.

Half of the 2,000 members of Moms Stop the Harm across the country are from B.C., where over 7,000 drug users have died of overdose since 2016, when the province declared a public health emergency.

Jennens says provincial funding provided last year has helped the group produce a guidebook for facilitators, pay for online accounts and hire someone to organize the groups.

The BC Coroners Service reported a record 1,716 annual deaths last year as border closures during the pandemic disrupted the usual flow of illicit drugs and more toxic fentanyl-laced substances took their place.

British Columbia and the City of Vancouver are asking the federal government to decriminalize small amounts of drugs for personal use as one way to reduce stigma for people needing treatment.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

overdose crisis

Just Posted

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn

Your morning start for Friday, May 14, 2021

Phil Hotzon gets surprised with a brand new e-bike after family and friends raise money to replace his broken one (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News).
Friends and family rally to replace Kelowna man’s broken electric tricycle

After crashing his e-bike into Mill Creek, loved ones raised fundraised and replaced it

Young Federico “Fred” Lenzi. (Raymond Lenzi/Contributed)
Italian moved to Okanagan with hope; he ended up being sent to a WWII internment camp

Raymond Lenzi shares his grandfather’s story ahead of Canada’s planned formal apology to Italian-Canadians

City of West Kelowna. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press Media file)
City of West Kelowna sued over developer fees

Ironclad Developments alleges they didn’t get a chance to provide feedback on the fees

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Joyce and John Henderson were among 25 British Columbians named 2021 BC Achievement Community Award winners by the BC Achievement Foundation. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm couple recognized for their decades of contributions to community

Joyce and John Henderson receive provincial achievement award

KCR Migrant Support Worker, Javier, had an exciting day escorting his son Ian with him during ‘Take your Child to Work Day’!
KCR: Volunteering is being part of a whole

KCR Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Then-minister Rich Coleman, escorted by Victoria Police, makes his way to the east wing amid a protest blocking the legislature entrances before the throne speech in Victoria, B.C., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. money laundering inquiry testimony ends today with reappearance of Rich Coleman

Responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, Coleman been recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month

Colin Dowler rests in hospital recuperating from wounds suffered from a grizzly bear attack north of Campbell River. He was able to end the struggle by stabbing the bear in the neck with a knife like the one he is holding. Photo submitted
‘Bad-ass dude that took on a grizzly bear’ doesn’t let 2019 B.C. attack bring him down

Campbell River’s Colin Dowler gets on with his life as his rehabilitation continues

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport in Richmond, B.C. on Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Meeting police chance to get sense of ‘frustrating’ gang violence situation: minister

Mike Farnworth met with police representatives Thursday following a recent spate of shootings

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Arrowsmith Search and Rescue manager Ken Neden, as he goes over the events of the Qualicum Falls river rescue on Dec. 12, 2020, for a United Kingdom television program “Unbelievable Moments Caught on Camera’. (Mandy Moraes photo)
TV show spreading news of daring B.C. river rescue across the world

Arrowsmith SAR trio share their accounts for ‘Unbelievable Moments Caught on Camera’

Shane Ertmoed’s application for Escorted Temporary Absences was granted following a hearing May 4, 2021. (File photo)
B.C. child-killer an ‘average’ risk to sexually reoffend: Parole Board

Written reasons behind approval of Shane Ertmoed’s request for escorted absences shared

Most Read