Purple ribbons have been hung throughout Salmon Arm, including by the Ross Street Plaza, in recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

Son’s death spurs Shuswap resident to speak out against stigma of substance use

Purple ribbons placed around Salmon Arm for International Overdose Awareness Day

Purple ribbons, recently placed in public spaces around Salmon Arm, are a way of recognizing the grief felt by those who have lost loved ones to overdose.

Sherry Vaile Robinson helped make and place those ribbons. Her son, Tyler, died of fentanyl poisoning in January 2016.

“My son was 23 when he passed away and he had been struggling for eight years and had fallen through many support service cracks in B.C. which was well recognized at the time,” said Robinson, who recently moved from Kamloops to Sorrento. “He left a recovery centre which was abstinence based. When you are detoxing you are even more susceptible to a poison source because your body can no longer tolerate the strength of drug source being used prior.”

In April 2016, the B.C. government declared opioid-related overdose deaths a public health emergency. According to a July 2020 report by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCDC), paramedic attended overdose events increased four-fold over the past three years. And recent BCDC data showed a spike in July 2020 overdose-related deaths throughout the province.

Read more: B.C. announces multi-year plan to double treatment beds for youth with addiction

Read more: Nearly 6 people died from overdoses each day in June as B.C. sees continued spike

“According to the latest report from the BC Coroner’s Service, within Interior Health during the first six months of 2020 alone there have been 115 overdose deaths,” said Interior Health. “This is a drastic increase over 2019, when there were 139 deaths total in IH for the whole year.”

Following the death of her son, Robinson has been endeavouring to raise awareness around substance use. Part of that effort included the purple ribbons, as the colour symbolizes International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31. The day marks a global event used to raise awareness about overdose and reduce the stigma associated with substance use.

Robinson said that stigma effects both substance users and their loved ones who may be reluctant to reach out for support.

“There are many families that are hiding in shame and not wanting to acknowledge their family member has a substance use addiction or has died,” said Robinson who, after her son’s death, realized she could no longer live with the shame and stigma. “I decided, rather than being silent and criticized, I needed to just be out there and be vulnerable and share my story.”

Through her work, Robinson wound up becoming a part of Moms Stop the Harm, a network of families impacted by substance use related harms and deaths, and advocate to change failed drug policies and provide peer support.

“We’re removing stigma that has caused a lot of shame and scouring against people who have been unable to resolve their dependence on a drug addiction,” said Robinson.

Following the recent spike in overdose-related deaths, the province pledged to add 123 new treatment beds for young British Columbians struggling with drug use. Robinson said the beds were a long time coming. What she’d also like to see is a greater emphasis on harm reduction, including a safe drug supply for those who may not be ready to pursue treatment.

Read more: Mom of teen who fatally overdosed says B.C. needs treatment beds, not just involuntary holds

Read more: Proposed B.C. legislation to detain youth who overdose could harm them: doctor

“Not everyone is going to be able to make that choice… They need something to keep them safe right now while they’re stuck in the dependency and addiction during this crisis of unregulated drugs that will not go away,” said Robinson.

Below is a list of Interior Health substance use services available in Salmon Arm:

Substance use counselling: Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Due to COVID-19, one-to-one service is delivered remotely via telephone. Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention, Thursdays at 1:15 p.m. Group offerings are via Zoom. Intakes for one-to-one or group services are co-ordinated via phone at 250-832-4103, or via fax at 250-803-4105. Clients can be referred or self-referred. Drop-in service suspended at this time.

Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT): Wednesday and Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Due to COVID-19, one-to-one service delivered remotely via telephone. Telehealth options are available for outlying communities of Enderby, Sicamous and Revelstoke. Intakes for services are coordinated via telephone at 250-832-4103, or via fax at 250-803-4105. Clients can be referred or self-referred. Drop-in service has been suspended at this time.

Both of the above services are located at 431 Hudson Ave. NE.

Youth Substance Use Counselling – Outreach: Tuesday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Similar to the other services though age range is 16 to 24 with a strong engagement with the school system.

There are a number of AA and NA groups available in town. Information can be found at bcyukonaa.org/meetings/meetingsbycommunity.php.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

B.C. overdoses

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton Vees forward Ryan Upson (pictured) scored his fourth goal of the Okanagan Cup Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020 at the Shaw Centre against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in what would prove to be the Vees’ first loss of the tournament. (Contributed)
Penticton Vees split pair of weekend games with Salmon Arm

Salmon Arm handed the Vees their first loss of the Okanagan Cup Saturday night

BC Liberal Party Shuswap candidate Greg Kyllo and wife Georgina celebrate another successful campaign, with preliminary results for the 42nd provincial general election showing Greg winning the riding with a comfortable majority. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
Shuswap’s Greg Kyllo faces third term and BC NDP majority

BC NDP candidate Sylvia Lindgren celebrates party’s success

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

BC Liberal Party Shuswap candidate Greg Kyllo and wife Georgina celebrate another successful campaign, with preliminary results for the 42nd provincial general election showing Greg winning the riding with a comfortable majority. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
BC Liberal Party Shuswap candidate Greg Kyllo and wife Georgina celebrate another successful campaign, with preliminary results for the 42nd provincial general election showing Greg winning the riding with a comfortable majority. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
BC Election 2020: Preliminary results show BC Liberal Greg Kyllo winning third term as Shuswap MLA

Kyllo expressed gratitude to voters and supporters as results rolled in on Oct. 24

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Google Maps)
Collision closes Highway 97A in North Okanagan

The highway has been closed since early this morning

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read