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Man biking from Saskatoon to Vancouver as fundraiser for combating opioid crisis

Last Updated Dec 31, 2020 at 1:23 pm PST

Iliajah Pidskalny will be leaving Saskatoon on his bike New Year's Day and pedal all the way to Vancouver with the hopes of bringing attention and funds to Canada's other public health emergency. (Courtesy GoFundMe)

A man from Saskatoon is gearing up for a cross-country trip focussed on Canada's other public health emergency

Iliajah Pidskalny will be Vancouver-bound on his bike to raise money to fight the opioid crisis

He has a goal of $20,000 going towards policy changes that focus on empathy

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Iliajah Pidskalny will be leaving Saskatoon on his bike New Year’s Day and be pedalling all the way to Vancouver with the hope of bringing attention and funds to Canada’s other public health emergency.

His goal is to raise $20,000 to combat the opioid crisis. It isn’t one particular story that inspired Pidskalny to start the fundraiser, but rather the time he spent living on the road and the people he met whose stories stuck with him.

“It’s so often you’ll see people in the street and they just become invisible,” he tells NEWS 1130. “People walk right past them and make no recognition. I’ve just seen that enough times and felt it myself.”

While he’s no stranger to long bike trips, this is his first time there will be a cause behind it after Pidskalny says the thought had been rattling around his head for years.

“I just want to be involved and walk out having more people thinking about this,” he adds.

For Pidskalny, compassion is key and showing empathy can go a long way.

“If we can look at drug policies with a new approach, a new empathic approach, that to me is almost more valuable than just changing the policies at the snap of a finger,” he says.

Any money raised will be split between Moms Stop the Harm and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition.

He’ll be documenting his journey on social media.

Five people dying every day in B.C from toxic illicit drugs

The latest data from the B.C. Coroners Service shows an average of five Britsh Columbians a day are dying from an illicit drug overdose.

So far, 1,548 British Columbians have died in 2020 from toxic illicit drugs, with each of the province’s health authorities at or near their highest monthly totals.

In November alone, 162 people lost their lives.

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It’s been five years since the opioid crisis was declared a public health emergency, and Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said earlier this month the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been deadly for those experiencing problematic substance use.

She noted ensuring people have access to “critical harm reduction measures,” such as naloxone, overdose prevention sites, and drug-checking services, can mean the difference between life and death.