Our Hospital, Our StoriesInternational Overdose Awareness Day 2021: Breaking Down the Stigma of Drug-Related Death

Posted on: Aug 31, 2021

Yesterday, August 31st, 2021, was International Overdose Awareness Day the world’s largest annual campaign to raise awareness and end the stigma that surrounds drug-related death.

Yesterday, August 31st, 2021 was International Overdose Awareness Day - the world’s largest annual campaign to raise awareness and end the stigma that surrounds drug-related death.

The city of Edmonton is currently the epicentre for the opioid crisis in Alberta: on average in the city of Edmonton, more than two people per day die from an opioid overdose. Due the central location and size of the Royal Alexandra Hospital, the ER at the Royal Alex handles more substance related visits than any other ER. In the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the Royal Alex saw 6024 emergency visits related to substance abuse, out of 15570 across the province.

“International Overdose Awareness Day is a marked time to consider that tens of thousands of lives have been lost to opioid poisoning across Canada, and the lifetime of grief this burden bestows upon families left mourning those who were loved and cherished.” – Sharlene Rutherford, President and CEO

On Tuesday, nurses at the Royal Alex set up an information booth in the Active Treatment Centre lobby, sharing information about International Overdose Awareness Day, harm reduction strategies such as reducing stigma around substance abuse that often prevent people from seeking help, community resources, an opioid fact sheet, free naloxone kits, as well as training for how to use them in the event of an emergency. Visitors to the atrium could also leave a message of hope or a note of remembrance on the wall for those who’ve lost their lives to an overdose.

While the reality of the opioid crisis is overwhelming, there is hope within the walls of the hospital thanks to the Addiction Recovery Community Health (ARCH) team, the clinical arm of the Inner City Health and Wellness Program (ICHWP). Beginning in 2014 as a three year pilot project with funding from the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation and eventually adopted by AHS, the ARCH clinic encompasses both emergency and non-emergency services such as: complex withdrawal management, treatment and recovery planning, counselling, overdose prevention, referrals to addiction recovery supports, links to primary and community-based care, connections to housing, healthcare coverage, income supports and identification, and other health promotion interventions. A 24-hour Safe Consumption Site is also operated by members of the ARCH team, with nurses and LPNs on site to assist with patients requiring this service.

“Initially supported by the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation as pilot projects, they now demonstrate proven leadership in harm reduction and healthcare delivery right across Canada. This combination of knowledge and compassion is an Edmonton-success story, and it’s providing a powerful antidote to one of the most complex health challenges of our modern age.” – Sharlene Rutherford

It is through the incredible support of our donors programs like ARCH and ICHWP exist. Your contributions help fund life-changing advancements in health and wellness.

For more information about harm reduction services offered through AHS click here.

For a list of participating pharmacies carrying free Naloxone kits along with training, click here.