Awareness day ‘a chance to reflect’

Awareness day ‘a chance to reflect’

An International Overdose Awareness Day vigil was held in Mount Gambier, a time to reflect and remember people who have lost lives to overdose, reduce stigma and raise awareness.

The vigil was co-hosted by the Limestone Coast Drug Action Team with Rotary Mount Gambier West and started with a Welcome to Country performed by Life Without Barriers drug and alcohol counsellor Tim Brennan.

Guest speakers included Substance Misuse Limestone Coast project officer Sophie Bourchier, Limestone Coast Drug Action Team chair Sergeant Jade Hill and Rotary Mount Gambier West president Ray Herbert.

Ms Bourchier said the event received a fantastic turnout and organisers were happy with how everything went.

“There were quite a few local community members there and it was supported well by the local Drug Action Team, SAPOL and all the agencies in the Drug Action Team,” Ms Bourchier said.

“International Overdose Awareness Day is about reducing the stigma and shame that is attached to people who die by overdose and their families feel that strongly.

“They feel as if they do not have the support a lot of the time to really grieve their loved one and talk about their loved one, it’s talked about in hushed tones a lot.”

Ms Bourchier said changing labelling language when talking about people who use drugs or alcohol was critical to removing blame and shame.

Limestone Coast Drug Action Team chair Sergeant Jade Hill said International Overdose Awareness Day was an opportunity to reflect and remember.

“It’s also a big opportunity to support our community, both those who do use substance but also the families and friends of the people who have been lost to overdose,” Sgt Hill said.

Ms Bourchier said recent data by the Penington Institute revealed overdose deaths in Australia was driven by opioids and misuse of prescription medications, often used in combination with alcohol.

“It shows that 2220 people have died of an overdose in Australia in 2020 and three-quarters of those were accidental,” Ms Bourchier said.

“But the 2020 figure is likely to increase due to delays in the reporting of drug-related deaths through the Coroner’s court.

“Since 2001, 35,000 Australians have died from an overdose.

“The overdose toll has exceeded the road toll since 2014 and there is still not a national overdose prevention strategy.”

Ms Bourchier said research showed perhaps 5% of those people who were on prescription opiates had a dependency.

“Irrespective of substance, overdose continues to be a significant and growing burden on Australia’s healthcare system, placing strain on ambulance services already under pressure,” she said.

“America’s opiate epidemic is Australia’s future if we do not act now.”

Mount Gambier Rotary West president Ray Herbert said Rotary supported any endeavours the community made to assist in the efforts of protecting, assisting and caring for people.

“As a community organisation, we are only too happy to assist in the efforts of Misuse Limestone Coast, SAPOL, the Drug Action Team, the City Council, in whatever efforts they can do to support the people that are affected by this insidious process,” he said.

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