A three-part video series on overdose prevention will spread the word that the vast majority of fatalities happen at home, not on the street.
It’s the “hidden population” of users and their loved ones that Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS) in Chilliwack is targeting with the videos, said Jodi Higgs, manager of Chilliwack Health and Housing Centre, which is part of PCRS.
“Those are the phone calls we get… the wives, the moms. They’re desperate.”
When Higgs and her staff saw the stats last year from Fraser Health and BC Coroners Service, they realized the majority of people in the eastern Fraser Valley dying from substance overdose (75 per cent) are family men aged 29 to 49 who are married with kids, and adult children who still live with their parents (or have returned home to live with their parents).
They are not homeless – they live in stable environments, are high-functioning and hold down good jobs.
“It really hit us hard that in order to reach the hidden population, we have to reach the friends and family of these folks,” Higgs said. “They are the ones who are closest, the ones who know or may suspect but are afraid to broach those topics, and they are the ones that can really make a difference in the stigma and the shame.”
The most common thread in that hidden population is the shame, said program supervisor Kim Lloyd.
“They don’t want their neighbours to know, they don’t want their church community to know, they don’t want their other family members to know, so it’s kept very hush-hush at the expense, perhaps, of losing a loved one,” she said.
By the time those family and friends get enough courage to seek help, they are desperate and their family is falling apart.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Lloyd said.
Thanks to thousands of dollars in grants, PCRS in Chilliwack has been able to do a lot more to help the friends and family members over the past year and a half.
Initially the money was going to be used to host events at the worksites where the majority of that hidden population would be – construction industries, factories, car lots – and where people would be informed about the crisis and get training on how to use a naloxone kit.
When the pandemic hit and places started shutting down, plans changed and PCRS decided to create a series of videos called The Hidden Crisis. They are part of a number of friends and family services they’re offering called Take My Hand.
They reached out to Justin Booth of Dock Visual Media to take on the project.
“Justin is so creative and forward-thinking,” Lloyd said, adding he was “really intuitive” with the message they wanted to get across in the videos.
The first video (above) was released on YouTube on July 5 and it talks about the overdose crisis within the hidden population. Higgs and Lloyd explain what they hope to achieve: to reduce overdose by creating safe and shame-free spaces in peoples’ homes.
The second video features two Chilliwack paramedics who speak about their experience showing up at homes for overdose calls. They also talk about naloxone and the Lifeguard app for those using. The app is activated (timer is set) by the user before they take their dose and after a certain amount of time, if the user does not stop the timer a call is send straight to 911.
The third video is a “lived experience” where a Chilliwack man who’s in recovery tells his story.
All three videos were filmed in Chilliwack. The dates for the other two videos have not been released.
Snippets of the three videos were put together to create a trailer that was shown during the UBC Let’s Talk Overdose international conference in June.
When they submitted the video to the conference organizers, they were “absolutely blown away,” Higgs said, adding it was later awarded the best video at the conference.
Higgs said they are hoping the videos give friends and family “the support they need to put their own emotion aside in order to walk alongside their loved one. That’s how the shame will be reduced.”
“I think ultimately we want to change the stigma that’s attached both to the families and the substance users. I hope they pick up the phone and call the number that’s provided,” she said.
To see the first video, go to youtube.com/watch?v=ZR4zW-o1bNM, or go to the PCRS_BC YouTube channel.
PCRS in Chilliwack (45921 Hocking Ave.) also offers in-person group sessions for family and friends, naloxone training workshops, one-on-one counselling and more. Call 604-795-5994 for more info, or 604-798-1416 to register for a free naloxone training workshop. Folks can also pick up free naloxone kits at that location.