An educational exhibit about the opioid crisis opened Monday in Red Deer, and former city councillor Lynne Mulder, who had a family member struggle with drug addiction, says community education is key.
“That’s what we need. People aren’t educated. We all tend to want to hide that part of society,” said Mulder, whose nephew is now 16 months drug free.
“We don’t want to admit that we’re part of it. So things like (the exhibit) bring it right out into the open and it’s good for everybody.”
The exhibit — Opioids Don’t Discriminate: An Interactive Experience — tells the story of three fictional characters who are based on the real-life experiences of people affected by opioid use.
The exhibit, set up in Red Deer College’s Learning Common, runs Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free.
Mulder, who was one of the speakers at the exhibit’s opening, said she wanted to tell her story because it is important for people to know that addiction can happen to any family, but there is also hope.
“I’m here to tell you don’t give up on the users. Don’t give up. I hope you’ll remember that if you’re thinking about someone who is pretty much lost in this world. It’s not over until it’s over. There’s lots of good success stories.”
She recalled how people didn’t know if they should talk to her about her family’s crisis.
“I learned mostly that you can’t bury it. It doesn’t help anybody. You need the support from others,” Mulder said.
Walking through every character’s journey at the exhibit takes 30 to 60 minutes. The displays are designed for middle school children and up. Younger children are welcome to attend with a responsible adult.
Stacey Carmichael, executive director of Turning Point, the harm-reduction agency presenting the display, said lots of people think it’s only the homeless who are impacted by the opioid crisis.
“It’s very visible in the streets with the shopping carts and the social disorder. But it’s much bigger than that. It talks about kids and moms and grown-up men who have good jobs. Opioids, in fact, do not discriminate. This is an issue that impacts our whole, entire community,” Carmichael said.
She said research on overdose fatalities in Vancouver shows drug-related deaths come from all demographics and all walks of life.
Once people walk through the exhibit, they will see its value and hopefully encourage their family, friends and co-workers to check it out, she said.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to bring your kids along and open up that discussion,” Carmichael said.
For more information, visit opioidsdontdiscriminate.ca.