It was an emotional night as several speakers shared their stories of drug addiction and recovery at an event held Thursday at St. Andrew's United Church in recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day.

Several community organizations were in attendance to distribute information on the overdose/toxic drug supply crisis and the various resources available. The agenda also featured presentations from family members affected by drug overdose. Community paramedics explained their role and there was a demonstration on how to administer Narcan and Naloxone. There were also photos on display of individuals who have been lost to drug addiction.

As of Aug. 1, Moose Jaw is fourth in drug overdose deaths in the province in 2023, according to the latest statistics released by the Saskatchewan Coroners Service (SCS). The SCS has recorded four drug toxicity deaths in Moose Jaw so far in 2023. Regina has recorded the most with 31 deaths followed by Saskatoon with 29 and Lloydminster with six. Three of the deaths in Moose Jaw this year were a result of fentanyl.

There were eight drug-related overdose deaths in Moose Jaw in 2022.

Meagan Jasper with the John Howard Society's My Place Program was one of the organizers for the International Overdose Awareness Day program.

"It's amazing...There are people here that I've never met before that are like, 'We came down here because I lost a brother 20 years ago'. It just goes to show that this isn't just a recent problem, this is something that has been going on for years. We're finally shedding light and it's amazing. I'm so emotional after listening to the speakers. I know them, I know their journey, their strength, and the hope that they're sharing today. It's beautiful."

Meagan's niece Ciara read a poem that she had written about her mom who is currently in treatment. Below is an excerpt from Ciara's poem:

"To me she is my mommy, my hero, my heart. When I look into her eyes, she's everything I see...I see her as a fighter who won't quit trying."

Ciara JasperCiara Jasper read a poem that she had written about her mom who is currently in treatment

Jade Pavey had struggled with an addiction to a multitude of drugs, including opioids. She came to Moose Jaw for treatment, along with her son, and was able to turn her life around.

"I had to step it up for a little boy and I was all he had really. That was pretty hard for me and so I basically had to choose, do I want to be a junky and a drug addict or do I want to be a mom because you can't have it both. That was the toughest decision I have ever made but I somehow just prayed in any way I knew possible. I'm definitely not religious. That was the first time I honestly felt like I was just done and truly surrendering."

Pavey says she now has a beautiful family and notes that 'life is pretty great'.

The evening concluded with a candlelight vigil led by Reverend Tim Ellis on the steps in front of Zion United Church.

International Overdose Awareness Day is observed annually on Aug. 31. It is a campaign to end overdose and remember without stigma those who have died and acknowledge the grief of family and friends left behind. The awareness day was first started in Melbourne, Australia in 2001. The campaign has been convened by Penington Institute since 2012 after being transferred from the Salvation Army.

The theme for 2023 is "Recognizing those people who go unseen", to honour those people whose lives have been altered by overdose. This includes family and friends grieving the loss of a loved one; workers in healthcare and support services; or spontaneous first responders who assume the role of lifesaver.

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