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Purple chairs in Trail draw attention to toxic drug supply

You may have noticed purple chairs dotting downtown Trail. What do they mean?

Purple is the colour used to recognize the toxic drug supply that is killing people all over the world. The empty chair is there to commemorate loved ones missing from our dinner tables, lost to toxic drugs.

The Trail Community Action Team, working with residents of La Nina shelter and the local community, have placed the chairs around town to invite people to reflect on the toxic drug supply and what we can all do to prevent these deaths.

In British Columbia, toxic drugs kill about six people every single day. Almost 30,000 people have died in Canada since opioid deaths were declared a public health emergency in 2016, including 117 in Kootenay Boundary.

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So far this year, we have lost over 1,000 people in BC, most of them young men (78 per cent) between the ages of 30-59 (73 per cent). The vast majority (84 per cent) of these deaths occurred indoors, mostly in private homes (56 per cent), with only 15 per cent occurring outside in vehicles, sidewalks, streets, or parks. No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.

“The toxic drug supply is often a hidden killer, mainly taking the lives of ‘ordinary’ people, living in homes, holding down jobs, part of families who love them,” says Diana Daghofer, co-chair of the Trail Community Action Team.

The group is recognizing the lives lost and providing information on the toxic drug crisis through a number of events on and leading up to International Overdose Awareness Day on Wednesday.

Kristen Bird, a nursing instructor and member of the team asks that if you see a purple chair in the community, “please stop and take a moment to think of your loved ones. Think about the toxic drug supply that is killing peoples’ children, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, and know that these deaths are almost entirely preventable. We need to lobby our governments to provide a safe supply to keep these people alive.”

The team will have a booth at the Trail IncrEDIBLE market on Saturday, where members will provide information and training in the use of naloxone, a drug which blocks the effects of opioids such as fentanyl, oxycodone and hydrocodone.

You can also look for the purple ribbons lining major streets in Rossland and Trail, with posters highlighting key points in the current toxic drug public health emergency, declared in BC in April 2016. The Trail bridge is also lit in purple to remember lives lost.

The Trail Community Action Team is made up of health professionals, people with lived/living experience, service providers and youth advocating and taking action to save lives and change drug policies to end these deaths.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that 30,000 people in BC had died from toxic drugs since 2016.

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