Overdose Awareness Day, Health Fair and barbecue, at the County of Dufferin Paramedic Service on Aug. 31, had services from all around Dufferin. The committee responsible for putting together the event came from various services, but all had a common goal to raise awareness for drug overdoses. – Rebecca Weston/MetrolandRebecca Weston, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Many people think they know what a drug user looks like. They stereotype addiction and who they believe someone who might overdose on drugs could be.

“I can assure you that it’s all ages, it is all demographics,” said Tom Reid, chief of the County of Dufferin Paramedic Service.

Reid said people sometimes associate it with those who are marginalized or unemployed, but he warns it can be anybody, in any profession. The stigma, he added, does more harm than good.

“People would like to think it’s not happening in Dufferin County, but unfortunately it is, but it’s certainly not as bad as in some areas that we know of.”

To help address this stigma and to educate people about substance use, Dufferin-Caledon Drug Strategy Committee brought local services and agencies together for the sixth annual community barbecue and health fair to mark Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31.

Reid said the county gets frequent calls about mental health and addiction. They track the number of overdoses carefully, but he explained it can be hard to get a full number because of the quantity of various drugs out there.

“By having an event like this, we’re hoping to not only raise awareness for the public and for those that might be interested in gaining services, but also for our community partners, how they can work together better, and get some team building and networking done,” Reid said.

Along with a variety of services, guest speakers shared their stories of recovery, loss and support.

Andrew Mallouk, a former drug user turned rehabilitation advocate, spoke about how stigma against drug addiction harms people.

“This stigma is part of what kills people a lot because they end up in back alleys and out in the country in farmer’s fields, and they just die by themselves,” Mallouk said. “I carry a message that there’s a better way of living life.”

Mallouk shared his story with the crowd, recalling details of his recovery process and when he relapsed 18 years ago. He started off his speech by saying the “Serenity Prayer,” which is said at the beginning of many support group meetings and many people attending said it with him.

“It was very emotional, because of some of the things that come up” Mallouk said. “I was very happy that I could mention the idea of stigma of drug addiction.”

Christine Madden also spoke, sharing details about her sister who passed away from a drug overdose.

“If you love somebody who has struggled with addiction than this affects you,” Madden said in her speech. “We help people by treating them with compassion by providing them a service by providing an ongoing support.”

Family Transition Place were giving out free naloxone kits, which are used to reverse or reduce the effects of opioid overdose. Alison Hill, addiction and outreach councillor at Family Transition Place, said many people were stopping by to pick up a kit.

Hill encourages everyone to have a naloxone kit handy.

Community Partners from around the county and Caledon attended the event to showcase their services and the resources available to people who are seeking support or help.

Lynette Pole-Langdon, director of counselling, education and community mental health initiatives at Family Transition Place and member of the Dufferin-Caledon Drug Strategy Committee, said they want everyone to know what supports are available to them.

“We feel really strongly about making sure that we show up in the community every year to help bring the message to the community and help decrease the stigma that exists still, unfortunately, around substance use,” Pole-Langdon said.

The event was open for anyone to stop by, grab a bit to eat and chat with vendors.

Caitlin Ward, manager of Services and Housing in the Province (SHIP) Dufferin Services, said impacts of an overdose death not only affect the community on a professional level, but a personal one. SHIP Dufferin Services provides mental health and supportive housing in Dufferin County as well as Peel and Kitchener.

“Sometimes it’s just having that first conversation to find out what’s available, and get more information about where they’re at and see what feels right for them,” Ward said.

Eric Prentice, sits on the Dufferin-Caledon Drug Strategy Committee and works for SHIP, said there is no wrong door when seeking help or advice.

“Call to any service provider, whether it’s the specific implementation right one will get you to the right support,” Prentice said.

By Rebecca Weston, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Sep 08, 2023 at 09:02

This item reprinted with permission from   Orangeville Citizen   Orangeville, Ontario

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