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'The hardest thing is to lose somebody': Overdose Awareness Day hits close to home for many Waterloo region residents

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An emotional Isaac Finsch spoke to community members and loved ones on Friday about losing his friend to drug poisoning.

“It’s definitely overwhelming, it's something we don't really want,” he said. “The hardest thing is to lose somebody.”

Finsch and others feel the drug poisoning crisis in the community is growing.

“Everybody just gets hurt in the community and we want everyone to stop doing it, but they actually should want it themselves,” he said. “You have to really want it and follow through."

The event in Cambridge’s Soper Park brought a grassroots approach to drug overdose awareness.

"There are evidence-based practices like consumption and treatment services, safer supply programs that are in place, but [they] could be more widely implemented and funded,” explained Emma Horner, co-chair of the Waterloo Region Integrated Drug Strategy.

Friday’s event was put on ahead of International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31.

Those who have lost loved ones shared personal messages with the community.

"Today is just a really important event for the community to kind of honour and remember all the lives we have lost to the drug poisoning crisis,” said Horner.

Purple markers were spread out on the park’s field to signify the lives that have been lost.

"We’ve continued to lose more people and so I think this is just a really good visualization of how wide and far reaching this crisis is,” added Horner.

The Region of Waterloo said that as of Aug. 19, there have been 40 suspected opioid-related deaths in 2023. Compare that to the total of 89 in 2022.

"This affects more people than they realize, it's not just a certain kind of population,” Horner explained.

Advocates are calling for action to prevent more deaths.

"We don't know what anyone has really gone through before, we need to ask more questions I think,” Finsch said.

"Not only are there many policies that need to be changed but many things need to be addressed,” said attendee Samantha Porte. “I think people in the community need to stop with the stigma. We are just people advocating for other people to get healthcare, everybody deserves that chance.”

Another event will be held on Aug. 31 at Kitchener’s Victoria Park from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

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