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Overdose Awareness Day Event in Cobourg Honours Those Who Died and Others Left Behind

Time to Remember, Time to Act’ is focus of event at Victoria Hall in Cobourg on August 31.

COBOURG, ON (August 17, 2022) – They are more than overdose statistics. Behind the numbers are real individuals – mothers, fathers, children, partners and others – who leave behind grieving loved ones.

Acknowledging the grief, raising awareness of the overdose crisis, and ending the stigma associated with overdose deaths is the focus of the International Overdose Awareness Day event to be held outside Cobourg’s Victoria Hall (55 King Street West) on Wednesday, August 31. The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR District Health Unit), Green Wood Coalition, Moms Stop the Harm, PARN and Ontario Network of People Who Use Drugs (ONPUD) are organizing the event, which falls on International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD).

IOAD is an annual global event marked on August 31 to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died, and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind. The local IOAD event comes as opioid overdose-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths continue to surge in the HKPR District Health Unit region. 

The IOAD awareness event set for Cobourg will consist of the following:

  • A raising of the International Overdose Awareness Day flag at 10:45 a.m.
  • Memorial and awareness activities from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This will include sidewalk talks and free training on the use of naloxone kits.
  • A candlelight vigil at 8 p.m. to share the names and stories of people who have lost their lives due to toxic drug poisoning and overdose. Anyone who would like to share a name and/or memory of someone lost to a substance-use-related death can submit at: People have the choice to speak about their loved one themselves or have an organizer read on their behalf at the vigil.

Reducing the Stigma of Criminalized Substance Use and Overdoses

“International Overdose Awareness Day is an opportunity to remember the lives lost to overdoses, or drug poisonings, and grieve with those who have lost a loved one,” says Kate Hall, a Health Promoter with the HKPR District Health Unit. “People who use drugs, both legal and criminal ones, do so for many reasons. In the event of an overdose or death due to a poisoned drug supply, families and friends need compassion and support to grieve their loved one without blame or shame. Addressing stigma within each of us and reducing the harms of drug use will save lives.”

Local resident Missy McLean echoes the point. She is a director and member of Moms Stop the Harm, a network of families across Canada impacted by substance-use-related harms and deaths. “People who lose a loved one to a toxic drug poisoning or overdose experience a traumatic loss. Families lose a child, sibling, partner, or parent, and then on top of losing their loved one, they experience a significant amount of shame,” McLean says. “Unfortunately, these families are not offered the same level of support and compassion due to the stigma associated with the overdose crisis, but which is really a crisis of toxic drug supplies, harmful drug policies and inaction at all levels of government to truly meet a public health emergency with an emergency response.”

Both McLean and Hall encourage area residents to attend the local IOAD event, increase their understanding of the overdose crisis, and hold space for those who have suffered a personal loss to overdoses. “We want to publicly recognize the individuals lost to overdose in Northumberland County, while acknowledging and sharing in the grief felt by those families left behind,” Hall notes.

To prevent more deaths, people are encouraged to learn the signs of overdose, carry naloxone, never use alone or at the same time if together, use a spotting service like the National Overdose Response Service [1-866-688-NORS (6677)], start low and go slow with dosing, test a small amount of the drug before using, and immediately call 9-1-1 in the event of an overdoses. Providing naloxone (an emergency medicine that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose) to someone who overdoses can also buy the time needed to get to hospital for treatment.


For media inquiries, contact:

Missy McLean, Director – Ontario, Moms Stop the Harm, (647) 880-6363, Email:, or Kate Hall, Health Promoter, HKPR District Health Unit, 1-866-888-4577, ext. 3246.

About the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit provides important public health programs and services to residents in Northumberland County, Haliburton County, and the City of Kawartha Lakes. Our dedicated team of public health professionals, led by our Medical Officer of Health, promote healthy living, protect against disease, and prevent illness and injury. We work with health care providers and community partners to address emerging health issues, service gaps and social inequities to support residents in being well and reaching their full potential. Our values of trust, engagement, accountability, and leadership guide what we do every day. Learn more at

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