Kat Wahamaa, the project coordinator for the Mission Overdose Community Action Team and a member of Moms Stop the Harm, wants to raise more awareness and understanding of the Fentanyl crisis. / Kevin Mills Photo

Kat Wahamaa, the project coordinator for the Mission Overdose Community Action Team and a member of Moms Stop the Harm, wants to raise more awareness and understanding of the Fentanyl crisis. / Kevin Mills Photo

It’s more like poisoning, rather than overdosing

Mission woman wants to raise awareness and understanding of Fentanyl crisis

Raising awareness and understanding of the ongoing Fentanyl crisis is a top priority for Kat Wahamaa.

The project coordinator for the Mission Overdose Community Action Team and a member of Moms Stop the Harm, Wahamaa has been involved in a series of events that have been held or will be held locally.

She said people need to rethink how the understand Fentanyl and overdoses.

“It’s Fentanyl poisoning, a poisoning of the illicit drug supply. It isn’t just like an OD in terms of what we used to think of as an overdose, it’s not someone taking too much drugs, it’s an actual poisoning,” Wahamaa explained.

She compared it to the Tylenol poisoning scare that took place in the early 1980s which caused a huge panic.

“Community response was quick and it was dealt with, unlike the Fentanyl problem.”

According to Wahamaa death by Fentanyl hits a specific group harder than others, men aged between their late-20s to mid 50s. And they are dying because they are alone.

“They are dying in their condos or their SUVs or whatever.”

She said people tend to think of places like the Downtown East Side when talking about overdoses.

“That’s not whats happening. Most of those people on the street are their own first responders, administering Naloxin to others before fire and ambulance arrive. It’s like a community.”

She believes it is the illegality of drugs and the stigma of drugs that is killing people.

“It literally is killing people because people are using drugs alone… they don’t tell their family because of the stigma.

“They are ashamed to tell people they are using, they use it alone and then they die.”

Wahamaa also said some families are dealing with the grief of a loss alone. They have lost a family member to drugs but often don’t tell people their child died of an overdose.

On March 10, the Mission Overdose Community Action Team and Moms Stop the Harm co-hosted a screening of the film FLOOD: The Overdose Epidemic in Canada.

Two days later, the first information session on the forming of a Mission-based Low Barrier Chorus took place.

“Anybody can be part of the chorus. A lot of the people who are part of it though are substance users, some have lost a family member.”

The group performs in communities to spread the message of harm reduction

It raises awareness but it’s also a place for people to gather, come together for support said Wahamaa.

The group Moms Stop the Harm, which was started by three mothers who lost their kids to drugs, is another organization raising awareness of the issues.

“Unfortunately it is growing, 14,000 plus deaths in the last three years. It’s a club you don’t want to join,” she said.

It was in August 0f 2016 that Wahamaa’s son Joseph died of an overdose.

“He literally died the day before my birthday, the day before I turned 60, and his birthday is Christmas Day. So every Christmas every birthday, Mothers Day, his children’s birthdays – he had two little boys – I think that’s the thing people are missing, this is an inter-generational trauma of massive proportions.”

She said children, parents even the first responders are all impacted by these deaths and compared the Fentanyl crisis to a house on fire and the response so far has been to throw a tea cup of water on it.

“People don’t get it. The reason I’m doing all this, personally, is I don’t want people to get it, by the death of their child or family member. I don’t want them to suddenly have an epiphany and it’s the death of a family member that awoke them.”

The Mission Overdose Community Action Team is creating a new support group called Healing Hearts.

The group will meet at Fraser House on every fourth Monday of the month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The first meeting is set for March 23. This is a peer grief support group for those that have lost a loved on to the overdose crisis.

For more information, contact Wahamaa at healingheartsmissionbc@gmail.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Mission’s 2021 grad ceremonies to be under same COVID limitations as 2020 grad

Grads and grad-parents receive letter from superintendent breaking the disappointing news

Betty-Anne Faulkner is a true legend of the Pretty Estates

Now known as the Sandpiper Resort, the area in Harrison Mills was once the Pretty Estates

Passengers aboard Komagata Maru in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, 1914 - Library and Archives Canada image
Abbotsford council is asked to rename street in memory of Komagata Maru victims

Most of 376 the passengers aboard ship were denied entry into Canada in 1914

‘Wild West of Mission’: Surging traffic on rural roads threaten safety, locals report

Steelhead Community Association present concerns to council on Feb. 16

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Framed photos of Travis Selje and other items fill the top of a dresser in his bedroom. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Crown says defence case epilepsy caused fatal Surrey crash fails on balance of probabilities

‘She very clearly had some form of control over that vehicle,’ Crown argues

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

Most Read