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Burnaby group urges strength in community in light of new toxic drug data

The Burnaby Community Action Team is set to recognize International Overdose Awareness Day by offering free naloxone training.
The Burnaby Community Action Team is hosting a three-hour public gathering on Thursday (Aug. 31) in recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day.

Thursday (Aug. 31) is International Overdose Awareness Day.

To recognize the annual event, the Burnaby Community Action Team is set to teach the public how to save lives in the event of an overdose as well as engage with those stigmatized by the toxic drug crisis.

The non-profit is hosting a three-hour gathering tomorrow at Burnaby Civic Square to mark IOAD 2023.

The event will also take place just days after the BC Coroners Service released ts latest data on toxic drug deaths in the province, to which 23 lives have been lost in Burnaby since Jan. 1 this year.

"Events like this are important so community members can take action, engage and support local initiatives," explained spokesperson Navreen Gill in a statement sent to the NOW

"The goal of our event and International Overdose Awareness Day is to break down the stigma and normalize the conversation around overdose. Awareness can save lives and unfortunately no one is immune from this crisis."

Year-over-year down 34 per cent

Burnaby's death toll to unregulated drug supply nearly doubled over the summer compared to the first four months of 2023.

A total of 14 people died from May, June and July after nine were tallied between January and April.

Despite the increase, the current total is down 34 per cent compared to the same time last year (34).

Burnaby's year-to-date total is also part of 101 illicit drug overdose deaths recorded across the Fraser North health service delivery area since Jan. 1, 2023.

"I am saddened to once again report that British Columbia's toxic drug crisis shows no signs of abating," said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe in a recent statement, noting 1,455 B.C. residents have passed from toxic drugs in 2023 to date.

"We are continuing to experience record numbers of deaths provincewide because of the toxic drug supply. The unregulated illicit market is highly unpredictable and continues to put thousands of lives at risk each month. Despite recommendations for the urgent expansion of a safer drug supply, very few have access to a stable, lower-risk alternative."

The Burnaby Community Action Team said its primary goal is to raise awareness, but to also remember the friends and family members impacted by those losses.

"We come together to honour those unseen who have been impacted by the toxic drug crisis," the group added.

"[Tomorrow] we are celebrating the strength of family members, friends, co-workers, acquaintances and fellow community members who have lost someone to toxic drug poisoning."

International Overdose Awareness Day is scheduled for Thursday 1 to 4 p.m. at Burnaby Civic Square at the Burnaby Public Library (6100 Willingdon Ave.)

Among the featured items on the agenda include speeches from community leaders and naloxone training.

For more information, you can visit the Burnaby Community Action Team's Facebook page.