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Local outreach work continues as drug poisoning crisis enters eighth year

Ankors and the East Kootenay Network of People Who Use Drugs (EKNPUD) feel that B.C.’s drug poisoning epidemic has worsened in the years since it began.

Sunday, April 14 marked the anniversary of the B.C. Government declaring a public health emergency in response to toxic drug-related deaths.

EKNPUD honoured the occasion with an event in Cranbrook’s Rotary Park aimed at raising awareness about the ongoing crisis.

“We probably had over 100 people come out to the event. A lot of the people were folks who have been impacted by the drug war,” said Jessica Lamb, EKNPUD project coordinator.

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“They’re parents who have lost children, children who have lost parents and service providers.”

Lamb feels the situation has deteriorated despite government efforts.

“We’re eight years into the unregulated drug poisoning emergency and I feel like things are just getting worse,” said Lamb.

“It is really frustrating being an advocate for people who use drugs to see what’s going on provincially around drug policy. We’re losing about eight people per day across the province.”

According to the BC Coroners Service, about 64 people in Cranbrook died from toxic drugs between 2016 and 2023.

The Coroners Service said over 14,000 British Columbians have lost their lives to drug poisoning since 2016.

“We need a safe supply, both medical and non-medical, but the government keeps on saying they don’t think that’s going to work,” said Lamb.

“As the government is making votes more important than the lives of people who use drugs, we have parents who are burying their kids and kids who are growing up without parents.”

Despite that, local outreach groups like Ankors and EKNPUD are still working around the clock to help out.

“We provide a sense of community and well-being for them because it’s been proven that folks are less likely to experience a fatal drug poisoning when they feel connected to community, well-being and a sense of belonging,” said Lamb.

“We work really hard to amplify the voices of people on substances and people living outside, so they at least have a say when it comes to policy and program development that directly impacts their lives.”

In recent years, Cranbrook’s municipal government has been taking steps to address drug and homelessness issues in the community. This is done through the city’s social development coordinator and regular task force meetings.

Lamb feels this has made a positive change.

“I think we’re finally at a point where the City of Cranbrook, service providers and the Ktunaxa Nation are all coming together to find solutions for what is going on,” said Lamb.

“I think that collaborative work is having a huge impact in our community.”

Something going on in your part of the Kootenays you think people should know about? Send us a news tip by emailing [email protected].


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