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Black Balloon Day in Parksville remembers people lost to toxic drugs

Risebridge executive director says event first of its kind in Parksville area
Black Balloon Day in Parksville on March 6. (Kevin Forsyth photo)

Community members who have died due to the toxic drug crisis were remembered in Parksville on March 6, Black Balloon Day.

Volunteers tied up black balloons, and set out naloxone kits and informational pamphlets along part of the Alberni Highway and Memorial Plaza close to the Risebridge office.

Executive director Jovonne Johnson said this is the first year Black Balloon Day has been marked in the Parksville area.

“We’ve lost a lot of community members just in the past few weeks due to our toxic drug crisis, including a youth out in our streets in downtown Parksville,” she said. “We hope that when people are walking or driving by today that they question or maybe they Google what’s up with the black balloons and hopefully continue to spread that advocacy and awareness.”

Johnson added that low-barrier services are needed, especially related to substance use and harm reduction.

“We heavily lack detox and treatment programming in this community and just basic survival resources for those who are substance use affected,” she said. “We’re still far away from ensuring there’s a safe supply and health care and needs being met.”

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Risebridge has a seven day a week outreach team in Parksville that offers harm reduction, low-barrier reports, survival needs and resources, according to Johnson.

The Risebridge office at 131 Alberni Hwy offers a daily drop-in space at 12:30 for people to come by, pick up naloxone and harm reduction supplies, as well as application support and other resources, Johnson said. There are extended hours on weekends, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Johnson added she is grateful to the advocacy work done by the Oceanside Community Action Team and Moms Stop the Harm.

Information about volunteering and donations is available at

BC Coroners Service recorded 14 unregulated drugs deaths in the Oceanside Local Health Area in 2023. The province as a whole recorded a record 2,511 deaths to unregulated drugs.

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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