Overdose Awareness Manitoba lines Churchill Drive with black balloons to remember lives lost

138 pictures of black balloons can be seen attached to trees on Churchill Drive along the river in Winnipeg.

The balloons represent the number of people who have died due to overdoses in Manitoba in the first six months of 2020.

“We don’t have more up-to-date numbers from the medical examiner, but we’re on track to be our worst year in overdose cases,” said co-Founder of Overdose Awareness Manitoba, Rebecca Rummery.

Read more: Winnipeg police release overdose prevention tips, say overdose death is preventable

The signs went up February 27 and will remain there until International Black Balloon Day on March 6, a day each year to bring awareness to overdose deaths and pay tribute to individuals who have lost their lives.

“It’s not all we want them to be remembered for but it’s important to have them remembered, and it really helps with ending the stigma and just talking about them,” Rummery said. “And now other families can go forward because it can be a very isolating experience, so just [a way to] have others who can support you.”

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Winnipegger Jody Wasserman’s family lost her brother to an accidental overdose while he was awaiting treatment. She’s hoping that by advocating for those like her brother, governments will implement change and help save lives.

“We need medically-assisted detox available, and then to go along with that, there needs to be treatment that they can go into directly after that,” Wasserman said. “Right now, there isn’t that available. You need to pay a lot of money usually to get into treatment, and that’s not usually feasible for, you know, for anyone.

“If I had the money I would have paid it for my brother, but it wasn’t, it just wasn’t there.”

Blank balloons have also been strung up on some trees, so Manitobans can fill a balloon in memory of a loved one.

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“March 6th is the actual day, so we want to see people post balloons outside their house, outside their businesses, to show that they have been affected or that they support,” Rummery said.

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