A mile in 45 pairs of shoes: Rally honours victims of drug overdose

Crowd calls for supervised injection site, more access to overdose antidote naloxone after Ottawa paramedics responded to 2,600 calls for overdoses last year.

It took three overdoses before Jennifer Bigelow got the help she needed.

A drug addict of 31 years, Bigelow started sniffing lines at 16, then turned to sex work to feed her drive for crack and needles. She woke up from that third scary overdose to her best friend breathing life into her body.

Many Ottawa residents didn’t get another chance. Last year, 45 people died of a drug overdose in the city. On Monday, a crowd gathered before the Human Rights Monument for Overdose Awareness Day to remember those who died.

“I am not clean from addiction, yet,” said Bigelow, speaking to the crowd before the memorial where shoes were scattered to honour those lives lost. “I know that one day I will be free from drugs and hope to be doing work where I can help others travelling on their dark and dangerous journeys.”

Ottawa paramedics responded to more than 2,600 calls for overdoses last year. It’s not only drug addicts who are at risk, noted Oasis Program director Rob Boyd.

“If you are on opiate-based pain medication, you are at risk of overdose as a consequence of that,” he said.

Naloxone, an overdose antidote that bides enough time for hospital treatment, is currently restricted to advanced care paramedics and a handful of public health centres. Boyd, along with other health professionals across the province, is lobbying to expand the availability of the drug to correctional facilities, methodone programs and addiction treatment centres.

The rally also called for a supervised injection site, but Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has previously said he’s against the idea.

By Lucy Scholey
Source: Metro Ottawa