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Opinion: Burnaby needs a safe injection site to prevent toxic drug deaths

Join BCAT for an outdoor event on Overdose Awareness Day, Aug. 31, from 3 to 4 p.m. at Burnaby Civic Square.

Founded in 2018, the Burnaby Community Action Team (BCAT) raises awareness on drug overdose in the community and works to provide resources to those at risk of overdose.

In recent years, the overdose death numbers in B.C. have reached record heights, with 2021 only continuing this unfortunate trend.

This year, Burnaby recorded 31 overdose deaths by end of May 2021, a significant number compared to last year’s 58 deaths for the entire year.

Dilpreet Thiara, chair of the BCAT, joined the team in late 2020. She is passionate about providing access to overdose prevention resources such as safe injection sites and serving her community. Currently, there are no safe injection sites in Burnaby. Thiara sees this as an urgent need.

Addiction treatment homes are also a limited resource; Charlford House Society for Women is the only women’s treatment centre in Burnaby. Although resources exist in communities nearby such as Vancouver, it is imperative that tangible resources become available to those struggling directly in Burnaby.

Dilpreet encourages the people of Burnaby to approach those struggling with compassion and refrain from judgement. People at risk of overdose can be from any job, home, or background and may be too ashamed to reach out before it’s too late.

“We don’t know what other people are going through,” she says. Speaking up against overdose helps reduce stigma and create conversation, encouraging people to reach out.

The COVID-19 pandemic took priority use of many resources Burnaby would have been able to put towards overdose prevention, such as clinics, nurses, and outreach funding. In addition, hours of operation were reduced for many services and clinics. These factors combined with the isolation of the pandemic help explain the increase in overdose deaths in the past year.

However, BCAT does what they can to bring hope while acknowledging the lives lost to overdose.

Join BCAT for an outdoor event on Overdose Awareness Day, Aug. 31, from 3 to 4 p.m. at Burnaby Civic Square.

This event will feature speakers from the recovery community and with lived experience of overdose and naloxone training from Fraser Health representatives to help empower people against overdose. Together, we can reduce stigma and fight to decrease overdose deaths in Burnaby.

Vivian Gietz is an executive assistant with Charlford House Society in Burnaby.