Contributed photo Leah, left, with her sister Ashley Balan who wants to increase overdose awareness by organizing the five-km walk/run called Leah’s Light. Leah, left, with her sister Ashley Balan who wants to increase overdose awareness by organizing the five-km walk/run called Leah’s Light. (Contributed)

Walk to raise overdose awareness

Leah’s Light registration deadline July 25

A Red Deer woman who lost her sister to an overdose death in January hopes her sister’s struggle with addiction will spur more local addiction services.

A five-km overdose awareness walk/run called Leah’s Light will be held Aug. 31 at Kiwanis Picnic Grounds, 4519 Fountain Dr. The registration deadline is July 25 at 5 p.m.

Ashley Balan said Leah, 31, died of an accidental fentanyl overdose while working on her recovery in Calgary.

“She had been struggling with addiction for a long time,” Balan said.

Balan said her sister, who was in medical detox program in Red Deer before going to Calgary, was one of the lucky ones to get into treatment quickly. It wasn’t her first time in treatment and she had to wait before.

“You might go to detox and you might wait three or four months to get into a treatment centre,” Balan said.

She said thankfully medical detox has been available in Red Deer since November. But prior to last year, Leah had to go to Calgary or Edmonton for medical detox and often the programs were full.

“That was a lot of the problem. She would want to get help and detox was full.”

She said Red Deer should also have its own treatment centre.

“Lethbridge has one. Grande Prairie has one, and Medicine Hat. Red Deer is the only place that doesn’t.”

Balan wanted people to know that those with addictions, like her sister, want to get better.

“Everyone that’s an addict, they don’t want to be an addict. They want to get help but there is the real lack of services for people who need to get help, especially in Central Alberta.”

She said Leah wanted to get better and work with others with addictions.

“All she kept talking about while she was sober was helping other people in her position and helping them find help, and maybe be an inspiration to them.”

Balan hopes the walk and her sister’s story will inspire those with addictions to seek help, and for the community to recognize the need for services. The walk will be held on International Overdose Awareness Day.

Leah had an addiction, but she was still a person, Balan said.

“I want people to know about my sister.”

Money raised through the walk will go to Turning Point, Red Deer and Central Alberta’s harm reduction agency.

Information on Leah’s Light is available on Facebook and registration is through Eventbrite.

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