'I never got a chance to say goodbye,' Mothers mourn the loss of their loved ones on International Overdose Awareness Day

Families mourning the loss of loved ones gathered across the region on Tuesday for International Overdose Awareness Day.

The day is significant for Midland resident Lori St Amant, whose son died of a fentanyl overdose last year.

"I never got a chance to say goodbye," St Amant said.

She said her son battled mental health challenges and addictions for years and left behind two children.

Angela Vos lost her son one day after St Amant's.

"My son was 26-years-old. He died at Central East Correctional Facility," she said.

The two mothers raised the purple flag in Midland in memory of their boys and the countless others who died of overdoses.

"He would use for a couple weeks, and he would come back, and it just was an ongoing cycle. Every time something bad happened in his life. That's what he would go to," Vos said.

She and St Amand are part of 'Moms Stop the Harm,' a network of Canadian families fighting for harm reduction resources in communities, including safe consumption sites.

Christine Nayler said her son Ryan died in November last year of toxic drug poisoning. "Every day is so hard to get through without my boy, so that's why we keep doing it so no other mom will have to know what I go through every day."

Ryan's Hope is an organization that provides breakfast to those battling addiction and mental health challenges.

The organization was started through tragedy but aims to bring hope where it's most needed.

The health unit said more than 130 residents died of an overdose in 2020, and it anticipates that number to go up this year.

"There were 18 confirmed and five probable opioid deaths in Simcoe Muskoka in March of this year. That's the highest month total ever recorded in Simcoe Muskoka," said Mia Brown, Simcoe Muskoka's health unit substance use and injury prevention manager.

The health unit said it could be another year before a safe consumption site opens in Barrie.

Meanwhile, the mothers who lost children to a drug overdose want the stigma surrounding the issue to change to compassion.