'We're in a crisis': Families of overdose victims gather in Guelph
KITCHENER -- Deeply personal stories were shared on Monday afternoon as families of overdose victims gathered in Guelph to mark International Overdose Awareness Day.
More than 100 people met at St. George's Square for the event held by the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy.
The group drew chalk outlines in the square to represent the lives lost to the growing epidemic.
Denese Renaud laid down a flower in memory of her daughter in one of the chalk outlines.
“It took me to my knees. It was the greatest gut punch I ever had. I battled cancer easier than I battled that,” she says.
"Support not stigma" was the theme for this year’s event, as organizers say addicts come from all walks of life.
Before her daughter died last fall, Renaud and her family knew nothing about her daughter’s battle with prescription drugs.
“She had a full-time job. She worked in a doctor’s office. She shared a house in The Beaches. And one afternoon I get a call that she’s found dead in her bedroom from an overdose."
In addition to the loss of a child, she says there's also stigma that comes with addiction.
“Battling the stigma of, 'What did I do wrong as a mom? Why didn’t I see this as a mom?'” adds Renaud.
So far this year in Guelph, organizers say that there have been 15 overdose deaths, nearly double the amount of last year’s seven overdose fatalities.
Waterloo regional police say that emergency services have responded to 779 overdoses in the region to date this year.
“We're in a crisis in the region. We're in a crisis in the province,” says Tara Groves-Taylor, addiction services director at House of Friendship.
Cambridge's House of Friendship announced that its new Addiction Treatment Centre was open at 562 Concession Road on Monday.
The project was supposed to be completed in 2018, but was delayed due to expansion plans and a fire in May of 2019 that caused significant damage to the building. The COVID-19 pandemic also resulted in some delays, the centre said.
The facility includes a residential program for men, a place to live and get treatment for up to six months, and includes a day treatment program starting in the fall.
But the organization admits choosing recovery is difficult.
“Asking for help I think is the best thing someone can do. The bravest thing someone can do,” adds Groves-Taylor.
Meantime back in Guelph, organizers of the overdose awareness event say the provincial and federal governments could do more.
The group is advocating provincial and federal governments for more help, and add that a safe supply would help keep drugs off the street.
“We're asking them to take urgent action to bring in safe supply,” said Adrienne Crowder, manager of the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy.
Police are also reminding people never to use drugs alone, carry naloxone and call 911 if you suspect an overdose.