Demonstrators at the legislature April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

Demonstrators at the legislature April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

Groups offer more support for Canadian families of drug users who have fatally overdosed

The pandemic has disrupted the usual flow of illicit drugs and more toxic fentanyl-laced substances took their place

A support group for families of people who have fatally overdosed is expanding its services across the country to also help those whose loved ones are addicted to illicit drugs.

The Alberta chapter of Moms Stop the Harm has received $345,000 in federal funding over two years to launch the Stronger Together Canada project from Alberta to all other provinces except B.C., which has already established its own program with provincial funding.

Stronger Together B.C. includes two groups: Healing Hearts for people grieving the overdose death of a family member to substance use and Holding Hope for those connected to someone in active addiction.

The B.C. model, which includes input from families and Indigenous communities that are disproportionately affected by the overdose crisis, is being used in Alberta to establish a larger program for the rest of the country.

Helen Jennens, a Moms Stop the Harm spokeswoman in Kelowna, B.C., says the group that began in 2015 with three mothers from B.C. and Alberta has seen a 25 per cent increase in membership in the last three months.

Jennens, whose two sons died of overdose, says the two Stronger Together B.C. groups are led by volunteer facilitators with lived experience.

“We also had a doctor come and talk to us and we’ve had an ex-coroner come and talk to us,” she says.

Jennens says facilitators will receive training to lead each group that will meet online during the pandemic to ensure people in remote communities get help while in crisis.

Half of the 2,000 members of Moms Stop the Harm across the country are from B.C., where over 7,000 drug users have died of overdose since 2016, when the province declared a public health emergency.

Jennens says provincial funding provided last year has helped the group produce a guidebook for facilitators, pay for online accounts and hire someone to organize the groups.

The BC Coroners Service reported a record 1,716 annual deaths last year as border closures during the pandemic disrupted the usual flow of illicit drugs and more toxic fentanyl-laced substances took their place.

British Columbia and the City of Vancouver are asking the federal government to decriminalize small amounts of drugs for personal use as one way to reduce stigma for people needing treatment.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

overdose crisis

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

Just Posted

(Pixabay photo)
NHL bracket challenge supporting Indigenous awards at Okanagan College

One or more Indigenous students experiencing financial barriers will be able to receive an award

Cloe Afton Papworth performs before a video camera to make her vocal entry for the First Virtual Shuswap Music Festival, held in April 2021. (R. Papworth photo)
Young Shuswap musicians hit record for virtual festival

Seven Shuswap Music Festival participants to compete at provincial level

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Sharks have been around longer than trees

Your morning start for Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Sisters Audrey Cunningham and Donna Erdman, join the Vernon Kalamalka Chorus singing in their cars, tuned into the radio, under the direction of Debbie Parmenter. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
VIDEO: Okanagan choir steers around COVID with ‘carbershop’ twist

Singers find a unique way to practice during pandemic restrictions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau receives his COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccination in Ottawa, Friday, April 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
75% of Canadians need 1st vaccine dose to have more normal summer: Trudeau

The country is on track to hit a major milestone on the road to COVID-19 herd immunity Tuesday, with 40% vaccinated with a 1st dose

A black bear, dubbed Huckleberry by Deep Cove, B.C., residents died on July 31, 2020, after becoming conditioned to food and humans. (North Shore Black Bear Society photo)
Fewer dead bears, more fines: Advocates call for B.C. conservation officer reform

B.C. Bear Alliance wants to see body cameras on conservation officers after more than 600 black bears were killed this past year

Friends Fraser O'Brien, Chris and Ben Reinhardt and Youngbin Kim enjoy a game of hockey on Okanagan Lake off Kin Beach this past winter. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Synthetic ice scores outdoor rink applause from Vernon

A new year-round rink could make its way to Polson, Kin Beach or Kin Racetrack

Minister of Health Patty Hajdu responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Drug users were shut out of Vancouver’s decriminalization proposal, critics say, demanding redo

The coalition is asking the city to raise the proposed drug thresholds from a 3-day supply

Kelowna seen from the top of Knox Mountain. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News file)
Kelowna ranked 12th best city in Canada for young people to work

Cities were evaluated by job availability, cost of living, public health, equity & inclusion and more

Kelowna City Hall. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Planning staff want Kelowna council to weigh in earlier on ‘complex’ proposals

Currently, all proposals go through the same process, whether its a carriage home or a 40-storey tower

David and Julie Kaplan with their children Estelle and Justin. (Special to The News)
COVID-19 border closure stops B.C. family’s cross-country move

Maple Ridge couple, two kids, turned away at New Brunswick border

Penticton Search and Rescue had to deploy its helicopter and high angle rescue team to evacuate an injured climber out of Skaha Bluffs Monday. (Mike Biden photo)
Injured climber helicoptered to rescue at Penticton’s Skaha Bluffs

This is the 7th rescue in a week for Penticton’s Search and Rescue

Most Read