Local Victims Remembered for International Overdose Awareness Day

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Windsor Overdose Prevention Society is marking International Overdose Awareness Day.

The group set up a day of remembrance and awareness at Average Joe's Sports Bar in east-Windsor Friday night, giving seven people who have lost a loved one to a drug overdose a forum to share their stories.

"A lot of people need this for their grieving process because they're holding all this stuff inside." says Founder Brandon Bailey, who goes on to say speakers were free to speak on any topic they chose.

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An undated photo of Graeme McLean. (Photo courtesy of Debora McLean)

Debora McLean's son Graeme was the final drug related death of 2018 — overdosing on Fentanyl after a long stretch of sobriety on Dec. 28 before being removed from life support on Dec. 30.

She says the 27 year old was a good man, but like many drug addicts, he got up to no good to keep his habit alive. McLean never turned away from her son after stretches in jail, under house arrest, or on probation.

"Addicts are not lost causes, they're not something where you just close the door and forget about them. It's about trying to be strong enough to get them to places that they need to be," she says.

McLean didn't have Naloxone on hand that fateful night, but she doesn't go anywhere without it now.

She says she'll continue to advocate for all first responders to carry the life-saving drug.

"Would it have changed it? You don't know because you can't go back, but our deal now is to enlighten the police department and the fire department that they are also first responders and 95 per cent of the time they are on scene before an ambulance gets there," added McLean.

At the end of the day she wants to help others see addicts as people who just need help, not junkies.

"The more people that we inform and bring it out there, that aren't scared to say this is what it is, the better it is," she says. "With a lot of people as soon as you say, oh 'my son's a drug addict." You can't catch it buddy, it's not like that. It is what it is, it's an addiction."

Public Health Ontario says 48 people in Windsor-Essex died from opioid related causes in 2018, the highest number ever recorded.

International Overdose Awareness Day is marked on Aug. 31 every year.