The second Leah’s Light 5K walk/run for overdose awareness was held at Kiwanis Picnic Park in Red Deer on Saturday. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

Walk raises awareness, money for overdose awareness in Red Deer

More than 90 people gathered in Red Deer to break the stigma surrounding addiction and overdose.

The second Leah’s Light 5K Walk/Run for overdose awareness was held at Kiwanis Picnic Park on Saturday morning.

Organizer Ashley Balan started the walk after losing her sister to a fentanyl overdose last year.

“I just decided I wanted to bring some awareness. Some people seem to think that overdose only affects the homeless or people that they’d consider poor who live on the street.

“But the fact is, it can happen to anyone. It doesn’t discriminate. There are teenagers who are dying, adults who are dying, law enforcement, veterans – it doesn’t end. No one’s immune,” said Balan.

Many other people have experienced similar losses in their life, said Balan.

“It’s such a senseless death and it is preventable,” she said.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it. I’ll always ask, ‘Why?’ For me, a huge message for people is: If you’re going to use substances, don’t use substances alone, always carry naloxone and use a safe consumption site.”

Money raised at the event, which also featured live entertainment, naloxone training and a barbecue, goes toward Turning Point for overdose prevention programming.

Balan said safe consumption sites are “important” to a community.

“It’s definitely one of the pillars we need to help people overcome addiction,” she said.

“A safe consumption site is so much more than a place people can go to use substances. It’s like their first contact for people – they’ll be connected with other community resources, build relationships with them and make them feel good about themselves so they will go seek help, and they keep people alive.”

The provincial government recently created a committee to review the social and economic impacts of supervised consumption sites.

That committee will host a public engagement session in Red Deer on Sept. 10 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre.

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