Overdose Prevention Alert: United Way Working to Save Lives

VICTORIA, BC  Last year, 1,510 people in BC died of a drug overdose. The overwhelming majority of overdoses involved fentanyl. We are in the midst of a public health emergency. It’s an issue we will not ignore.

United Way is working with community partners to tackle the opioid crisis through our Overdose Prevention Project. Our primary goal is to create awareness and educate people through de-stigmatization, compassion and fact-based information.

Components of the Overdose Prevention Project include today’s Overdose Prevention Expo. Eighteen community partners hosted information tables covering topics like what opioids are, the risks, harm reduction, naloxone training, and the programs and services that are available to help people who are struggling. Many of the community partners are part of United Way’s funded network of social service organizations across the CRD.

A feature of the Expo was a “bloom wall” that held 1,510 wooden roses. People were encouraged to take a rose in honour of someone they have lost or in tribute to someone they love and to post their rose photo on Instagram and tag @UnitedWayVictoria #unignorable. Thanks to our event partners The Bay Centre and Graphic FX.

The Overdose Prevention Project also includes funding for community partners to educate others about the dangers of opioids, harm reduction strategies and programs and services to help people and their loved ones.

“Our driving objective is to save lives through preventive measures,” said Mark Breslauer, CEO, United Way. “For 82 years, United Way has been at the forefront of social issues impacting our community. By working together, we make important social issues like the opioid crisis unignorable.”

As part of the Expo, United Way announced a grant of $8,000 to Umbrella Society for Addictions & Mental Health. The funding will enable Umbrella Society to offer another session of their “Understanding Addiction” workshops this fall.

The five-part workshop focuses on how we think about addiction; harm reduction; therapies like opioid substitution therapy; how the brain functions on substances; working with different populations like youth; family impact and understanding; and recovery. The workshops are free to the public. The last time the workshops were offered in the fall of 2018, there was a wait list of 21 people. To find out more information, please contact Umbrella Society at wecanhelp@umbrellasociety.ca

“As a community leader, United Way is bringing compassion and connection to the thousands impacted by the opioid crisis. We’re truly grateful for United Way’s support so that we can run another learning series which has helped many community members gain more knowledge about addiction, help others and support our community,” said Sharlene Law, Executive Director, Umbrella Society.

United Way also provided a small grant to Island Health to offset costs related to displaying a selection of their PhotoVoice project at the Overdose Prevention Expo. The PhotoVoice project brought together nine Victoria residents with lived experience who countered images used in the media and envisioned a new way to represent the overdose crisis.

United Way is also working with community partners to develop a program for schools about overdose prevention and harm reduction.

The present crisis is unignorable. Let’s change the future for the better. For more information about United Way’s Overdose Prevention Project, please visit: uwsvi.ca/overdose-prevention-project/


For more information, please contact:

Heather Skydt

Director, Marketing and Communications

United Way

Work: (250) 984-2269

Email: heather.skydt@uwgv.ca



Local issues can be easy to ignore. In our busy world, important local social issues can often go unnoticed.

United Way is working to change that by making issues like poverty, mental health, unemployment and social isolation get noticed.

A series of eight posters drawing on the long tradition of art for social change have been created. Each poster focuses on different social issues affecting our community. The images have been designed by award-winning international illustrator Malika Favre and United Way Centraides across Canada partnered with Pantone Colour Institute™ to create a signature #unignorable colour.

The posters will be on display during the month of May in the lower level of The Bay Centre. Thank you to The Bay Centre for providing the space to bring attention to these important social issues.


United Way ‘unites’ the generosity of people – business, labour, government and individual donors – with the skills, knowledge and expertise in the community to help ensure those in need reach their full potential. This collaborative approach is building a stronger, more resilient community to serve current and future generations.

As one of the region’s largest annual funders of local social service programs, we assist charitable organizations by identifying and funding programs to address immediate needs and underlying causes of our community’s most unignorable social challenges.

United Way is a year-round fundraiser and community builder and provides multi-year funding to create a strong and stable network of local services. For more than 80 years we have served the community and raised over $170 Million. Our work, as a community leader, is as relevant today as it ever was.  And with the ongoing support of our donors, we will continue to positively change lives.