The opioid crisis has been an ongoing problem that British Columbia is facing for the past few years. Over the past months, reports from the B.C. Coroner’s Office have highlighted the consequences of the toxic drug supply that has been circulating throughout the province. 

The Nicola Valley, unfortunately, is also vulnerable to this issue. Local organizations such as Scw’exmx Community Health Services Society (SCHSS) are looking to educate people to prevent any cases of toxic drug use in the community. 

Through the support of a Harm Reduction grant, SCHSS will be hosting a two-day harm reduction convention at the Merritt Civic Centre on October 21-22. The event will inform attendees about the resources available within the community for harm reduction and safe drug use. 

“We’ve created a two-day event where people can come, gather information, and listen to presentations,” said SCHH Manager May George. “We’re going to feed people, we’re going to provide entertainment while having our culture integrated as well.”

The 2022 calandar year has been a year of alarming toxic drug use cases in B.C. In a recent report from the B.C. Coroners Service, it shows that 1468 lives in B.C. have been lost to toxic drug use from January to August this year. 

“This crisis is absolutely a crisis in our community,” said George. “I’ve had family members and friends pass away from overdose so it has definitely reached our community.” 

George explained that through a First Nations Harm Reduction grant received from the First Nations Health Authority, SCHSS was able to fund the two day event that acts as both and educational and cultural experience for attendees. 

“We’re trying to incorporate some traditional and cultural stuff like bringing in elders to brush off people to keep them safe and protected,” she said. “We’re having drummers come in, powwow dancers, and we’re also going to talk about the significance of dancing in sobriety.”

SCHSS invited a number of notable organizations at the event such as Interior Health, Ask Wellness, Conayt Friendship Society, and City of Merritt. For entertainment, the event will feature a musical performance by Indigenous blues artist George Leech and an appearance by actress Michelle Thursh. Guests will also be treated to a meal on both days as well as numerous door prizes throughout the event. 

Harm Reduction event program. Photo/SCHSS

“We want to target our youth, adults and elders through this event,” said George. “We want to educate them and whether they’re using or not, we want to open our doors for them to come, learn, and gather some information from the 20 booths that will be set up at the Civic Centre.”

Scw’exmx Community Health Services Society’s Harm Reduction in Community will begin on October 20, at the Merritt Civic Centre, with doors opening at 1 p.m. For more information on the event please visit SCHSS’s official Facebook page.