Red Deer’s Turning Point is finding new ways to spread its health messages in the midst of the pandemic.
Free online “Lunch ‘n Learn” events are part of a week-long harm reduction webinar series using Zoom that aims to highlight universal harm reduction approaches and the community-focused supports available and to draw attention to International Harm Reduction Day, which takes place on Friday.
The goal of harm reduction day is to promote evidence-based public health policy, practices and human rights.
On Tuesday, Rural Outreach and Harm Reduction will be the topic from 11:30 a.m. to noon. On Wednesday, Stigma and Current Drug Trends will be discussed and on Thursday those joining can get information on overdose prevention and naloxone training. On Friday, people will get information on what to do if they find discarded needles and how to dispose of them safely.
In promoting its lunch events, Turning Point talks about how opioid deaths are no longer a rare occurrence in the community.
Last year, 56 people died from overdoses in Red Deer, more than double the 24 deaths in 2019, according to the Alberta Substance Use Surveillance System.
Across Central zone, the number of deaths increased 43 per cent to 128 last year, compared with 74 in 2019. Red Deer’s overdose prevention site reversed 1,190 overdoses last year.
So far, this year is shaping up to be another sad year for many families.
Mitchell Danser, communications and community engagement co-ordinator at Turning Point, said he has not yet seen all of the numbers but “I know we’re charting to be much worse than last year, and last year was the worst year.”
Central zone also continues to be among the hardest hit areas of the province.
Danser said the webinar series through Facebook is a new approach and it is hoped it will allow Turning Point spread its messages further.
“I think the appeal of having it on Facebook too is we are reaching a broader community. On a larger scale, being able to reach people throughout Alberta, that’s important for us.
“We’re doing what we can.”
Red Deer’s overdose prevention site received good news recently. The province extended funding for the operation of the site until March 31, 2022.
Meanwhile, Alberta’s Moms Stop the Harm has set up a virtual memorial as part of an online campaign to remember the hundreds of lives lost each year in the province because of the opioid crisis. A thousand entries can be found online at see-beyond.ca in which people talk about the kinds of people their loved ones were and how much their loss has meant.