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

Just Posted

Two ambulances and a medevac helicopter are on scene at Taylor River Flats rest area on Highway 4 due to a serious motor vehicle incident. (PHOTO COURTESY MAGGIE BROWN)
Highway 4 reopens after accident at Taylor River Flats

Multi-vehicle crash had closed highway to west coast

Grade 12 graduates Jada Touchie, Timothy Masso and Brendan Brown are all smiles after receiving their Goodies for the Grads gift packs thanks to a small neighbourhood grant from the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet Secondary School grads set to parade through town

Family and friends can cheer on the Class of 2021 this Saturday, June 19 at 4:30 p.m.

From left, Ahousaht First Nation Hereditary Chief Richard George presents a $10,000 cheque to Tofino Hatchery manager Doug Palfrey alongside Tyler Huebner of TCH Contracting The funds will go towards rebuilding Cypre river Chinook. (Carallyn Bowes photo)
Tofino Hatchery receives $10K donation

Tofino Salmon Enhancement Society tackling massive drop in Chinook salmon stocks

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

This rendering shows the potential layout for a 40-unit staff housing cooperative being proposed by the Pac Rim Home Development Cooperative in Ucluelet. (Image from www.prhdc.ca)
Pac Rim Cooperative pitches staff housing project in Ucluelet

“We’re looking at it as if it’s like a resort for employees”

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

Fallout has continued, with two of the federal council’s members resigning

Most Read