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‘First-time users are dying’: B.C. mom runs across province advocating for safe drug supply

Jessica Michalofsky’s 25-year-old son died of drug poisoning in August, 2022

Jessica Michalofsky is running more than 900 km from Nelson to Victoria to continue her advocacy for a safe and regulated drug supply.

In October, she ran the equivalent of 14 marathons around the Ministry of Health building in Victoria following the death of her son 25-year-old son, Aubrey Michalofsky.

Aubrey died of a drug overdose last August in Nelson.

In this new marathon, Michalofsky left Nelson on May 21 and will stop in 14 communities before arriving in Victoria on June 25.

She told the Nelson Star her main mission is to correct the misconception that people experiencing homelessness and mental health and addictions issues, in the Downtown Eastside (Vancouver) and on Pandora Street (Victoria) die of toxic drugs.

“Those people have such a spectacle around them that it distances (the public) from the issue: ‘My son doesn’t look like that, my family doesn’t live like that.’”

In Lakeside Park in Nelson, Jessica Michalofsky begins her run to Victoria. She is running to promote the need for a safe supply of drugs and to decrease the stigma attached to illicit drug deaths. Michalofsky’s son Aubrey died of a drug overdose in 2022. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
In Lakeside Park in Nelson, Jessica Michalofsky begins her run to Victoria. She is running to promote the need for a safe supply of drugs and to decrease the stigma attached to illicit drug deaths. Michalofsky’s son Aubrey died of a drug overdose in 2022. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

According to the BC Coroners Services’ statistics, there were 2,272 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in the province in 2022, and many of those people died in their own homes.

“The perception that this is only hardened ‘drug addicts’ is incorrect,” she said. “Young people are dying, first-time users are dying, people who were just kind of dabbling with drugs are dying.”

Aubrey was enrolled in Selkirk College’s law and justice studies program and in 2021 earned a diploma, as well as several awards.

Michalofsky said she did not expect to directly influence politicians with her running around the health ministry building, but she hoped media coverage would inform the public.

“My purpose was to get the public thinking, talking, asking questions. That is still my hope.”

Mikalofsky said if her son had had a safe inhalation site he might still be alive. He had used harm reduction services in Nelson and Victoria, she stated that those need to be expanded.

“He died in a house in Beasley, where he was doing drugs with people who did drugs, because that is where the drugs were, and those people were his community for the time being. If he had had a regulated safe source of drugs he would have gone to that location had it been accessible.”

Michalofsky said that although she is an experienced marathon runner, she has never done a multi-day run before.

“It is a long distance, I am 51 years old, and even though I have trained, tendonitis and injury are what I fear the most. My will to continue is firm, and I hope my body will cooperate.”

READ MORE:

• B.C. mom runs daily marathon in front of health ministry office after son dies of drug poisoning

• VIDEO: B.C. mom protesting in Victoria for safe supply to meet with addictions minister



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

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Jessica Michalofsky spoke to supporters at Lakeside Park in Nelson on May 21 before beginning her month-long run to Victoria to increase awareness of the need for a safe and regulated supply of drugs. Michalofsky’s son Aubrey died of a toxic drug overdose in August of last year. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

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Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

Bill has lived in Nelson since 1994 and has worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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