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“Humans First” in Port Alberni

Groups are marking Overdose Awareness Day with three different events

The goal is to forge paths to a better future

August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day, and the valley is coming together to take action and support each other.

The community isn’t huge, but we’ve experienced 11 drug related deaths in the first half of this year.

“For a small community, 11 deaths is too many,” said Mary Clare Massicotte, coordinator of the Community Action Team (CAT) to Alberni Valley News.

In response, on August 31st there will be three different events taking place to help spread awareness, empathy, and introduce effective community initiatives to help make a difference.

They’re not just looking to grieve, they’re looking for solutions.

CAT is hoping those solutions will spring from a town hall meeting at Trinity Church (4766 Angus Street) from 7–9 p.m.

Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne and Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns will be speaking on some solutions that have proven effective elsewhere, and could be implemented here at home.

Another guest speaker, Josh Dahling, will speak on his own experience with addiction and what’s helped him.

Business owners and the overdose prevention site on Third Avenue have had a tough relationship lately. CAT is hoping everyone can come together to talk and forge a better path forward.

“It’s all about hearing people and listening,” said Massicotte. “We want people with divergent points of view to be there. We have no idea how many people are going to show up—we hope there will be lots,” she told Alberni Valley News.

CAT will also launch a documentary film during the meeting. Produced through a First Nations Health Authority grant, the short film is titled “Humans First.” It explores the lives of people living on the streets in Port Alberni, and discusses their experiences with stigma and access to help.

“These are people we see every day in our community,” said Massicotte. “We think it’s going to be very powerful, because it’s very impactful.”

Support workers will be on hand in case the documentary brings up tough feelings for folks in attendance. They’ll also serve refreshments.

The Bread of Life will also host a pizza lunch on Fourth Avenue from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for anyone in need of a meal and support.

Overlapping with the town hall, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC) will hold a gathering and candlelight vigil at Harbour Quay from 6–8 p.m.

They’re asking anyone who has lost a loved one to an overdose to bring a photo. They’ll put all photos up on a memorial wall and light candles in their memory.

Dinner will be provided. There is limited seating so people are asked to bring their own chairs.

All these events show the community cares, and wants to create a better future.

Come out and be a part of it.