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

David and Julie Kaplan with their children Estelle and Justin. (Special to The News)
BC family whose move was stopped by COVID border closure back on the road

Maple Ridge’s Kaplan family will arrive at their new home in Nova Scotia on Wednesday

A sign to students outside Pitt Meadows secondary. The school is currently listed by Fraser Health as having COVID-19 exposures. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Schools in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows have COVID-19 exposures

Highland Park, Laity View added to list of nine with cases in past two weeks

Balaji Kumar in front of his backyard observatory in Maple Ridge. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge man makes astronomical discovery

Balaji Kumar spotted a dwarf nova outburst from his backyard observatory

Jack Emberly is the host of a podcast on CEED Pod. (The News files)
CEED Centre in Maple Ridge launches new podcast

Available on CEED Centre website

The Ridge Meadows Flames are hosting an under-15 development skate this summer. (Facebook)
Ridge Meadows Flames announce under-15 development camp

Junior B club to host eight skates in July

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

Brad MacKenzie, advocacy chair for the ALS Society of B.C., says having research projects in the province allows people here to have access to cutting-edge treatments now being developed. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds research chair for Lou Gehrig’s disease at UBC

Pandemic has cut off patient access to international projects

Terry Driver as he looked around the time of the killing of Tanya Smith and the attempted murder of Misty Cockerill in Abbotsford in October 1995. No current photos are available of Driver.
‘Abbotsford Killer’ Terry Driver denied parole, deemed ‘high risk’ to re-offend

Driver murdered Tanya Smith, 16, and seriously injured Misty Cockerill, 15, in 1995

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

In this Monday, March 15, 2021 file photo a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is pictured in a pharmacy in Boulogne Billancourt, outside Paris. Questions remained Wednesday about the future of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in Canada, as Manitoba limited use of the shot and Ontario announced it planned to save an incoming shipment to use as second doses. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Christophe Ena, File
Questions remain about the future of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot in Canada

More than two million Canadians have received AstraZeneca and 17 have been confirmed to have VITT

A Mountie issued B.C. RCMP’s first ticket for non-essential travel May 1. (Black Press Media files)
Driver ticketed, told to ‘return to Lower Mainland immediately’ by Vancouver Island police

The motorist was originally pulled over for driving-related offences May 1

Children walk back to their classroom while wearing masks and physical distancing at St. Barnabas Catholic School in Scarborough, Ont., in October, 2020. A group of B.C. teachers has issued an open letter calling for the relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions for children in B.C. schools. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
Group of B.C. teachers calls for easing of pandemic measures for students

Teacher group says ‘response to COVID is out of balance to the cost our youth are paying’

Most Read