MONTREAL -- Community groups are meeting in downtown Montreal today to raise awareness of the risks of drug use as part of International Overdose Awareness Day.

Each month more than a thousand Quebecers wind up in the emergency room for drug intoxication.

Many never get the chance to be treated.

The National Public Health Institute of Quebec says 119 people died due to a drug overdose in the first three months of 2019.

The number marks a sharp uptick from the same period last year, when 82 people lost their lives to drugs.

March alone saw 98 hospital admissions for opioid poisoning, the worst month since September 2017.

The Saturday afternoon event will commemorate recent overdose victims, as well as the founding of CACTUS Montreal.

The group, which works to prevent sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections, launched North America's first needle exchange program in 1989.

The gathering at Place Emilie-Gamelin features music, information kiosks and creative workshops as well as speeches, testimonials and performances, followed by a suppertime barbecue.