Virtual memorial honours more than 1K Alberta opioid crisis victims

WATCH ABOVE: A Virtual memorial has launched to remember the many lives lost due to the opioid crisis. The memorial comes at a time when advocates and medical experts warn we may be on track for an even deadlier year. Chris Chacon reports.

An online campaign has launched to remember the many lives lost in Alberta due to the opioid crisis.

“We decided to do this virtual memorial because we hear numbers but the people we love are not numbers and they are so much more than the substance use they died from,” founding director of Moms Stop the Harm Petra Schulz said.

In 2020, 1,144 people died of opioid overdoses in Alberta, according to officials.

The labour of love took months to compile, featuring stories and fond memories written by families across the province.

Participant Kym Porter said she lost her son Neil, 31, to an overdose in 2016.

“I was asked to include a statement about Neil in regards to something that he loved, so my statement was about his love of Batman,” Porter said.

Porter said writing about her son is bittersweet but she welcomes any opportunity to honour him.

“It doesn’t just honour him; it honours all the other lives lost to this crisis as well as the families that grieve for their loved ones,” Porter said.

The virtual memorial launched after news of the Boyle Street Community Services supervised consumption site shutting down.

Read more:
Advocates raise concern over closure of Edmonton supervised consumption site: ‘It’s puzzling’

Harm reduction group Moms Stop the Harm said it had to launch earlier than anticipated in an effort to draw attention.

Dr. Hakique Virani specializes in public health and addiction medicine and said now is the time to scale up life-saving interventions.

“We’re seeing the overdose epidemic scale in the shadows of COVID in a way that’s horrific. We’ve seen a 157 per cent increase since last year in the number of overdose deaths,” said Virani, an associate professor at the University of Alberta.

“It looks as though 2021 will be even worse. We’re losing at least four people per day to overdose death.”

Read more:
Canadians care less about opioid addiction than before the COVID-19 pandemic: poll

In Edmonton, 398 people died of opioid overdoses last year, officials said. In the first two months of this year, there were 72 opioid-related deaths in the city.

As for Porter, she said she hopes this memorial will touch the hearts and minds of all Albertans, including lawmakers who make key decisions in helping those living with addiction.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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