Opioids and overdoses are topic of forum Feb. 25 in Maple Ridge. (THE NEWS/files)

Maple Ridge hosts forum on opioid crisis

Full-day event looks at deadly effects

Experts who’ve seen the causes and costs of addiction and overdoses upfront are gathering at the ACT in Maple Ridge on Feb. 25 for a full-day forum called Partners in Resilience.

The Ridge Meadows Overdose Community Action Team is hosting the event, which starts at 9 a.m. and features interactive panels on topics ranging from drug policy and harm reduction to advocacy to youth.

Medical health officer, Dr. Ingrid Tyler, Donald MacPherson, with the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, along with Leslie McBain, co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm, and Erica Thompson, with Fraser Health, will discuss some of the issues.

“We know it is critical to connect across sectors, with people with lived experience, drug user groups and members of the community at large to build evidence-based support and a strong coalition to address this epidemic,” said Kat Wahamaa, co-chair of the overdose action team.

“To that end, we have organized this opportunity for dialogue,” she added.

“Basically, it’s more of an opportunity to sit down and talk about we can maximize the resources we have.”

All community members are welcome including people who use drugs, their family members, teachers, drug-user groups, artists and youth workers.

Wahamaa cited the most recent B.C. Coroner’s report that noted the almost 1,500 deaths in B.C. in 2018 due to illicit drug overdoses outweigh the numbers of people dying from motor vehicle incidents, homicides and suicides combined.

The release from the overdose action team noted that B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry recently renewed calls made previously by advocates and officials – including Lapointe – for Ottawa to legislate access to clean drugs.

The overdose community action team was formed in 2016 and comprises Fraser Health, City of Maple Ridge, health agencies, the school district, along with fire, police and paramedics.

The forum is being funded by the Community Action Initiative, which received $100,000 last year from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions.

Admission to the forum is free but advance registration is required through eventbrite.com because there are space limitations.

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