Another two months and another four people have died in Maple Ridge as a result of fentanyl-related overdoses, according to the latest statistics released by the B.C. Coroner’s Service.
The coroner had detected 10 fentanyl-related deaths in Maple Ridge this year, from January to May 31. Two months later, by the end of July, that number stood at 14.
However, the number of fatal drug overdoses involving cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines or prescription medicines is even higher, with 20 people dead in Maple Ridge from this January to the end of August.
Brad Beecroft of Maple Ridge has felt the effects of the fentanyl epidemic first-hand. His lost his son, Ryelen Beecroft, to an overdose on Aug. 16. Ryelen, 18, was found on the grounds of Golden Ears elementary.
Brad had talked to his son the night before, just moments before his son went out to see a friend. Ryelen had just sold his car to an auto wrecker for $20 after buying it earlier for a few hundred dollars, with the hope of fixing and reselling it.
Ryelen had stopped off at the school on his way to do a hit of cocaine before going to see a friend, then heading out for the night. The coroner recently confirmed to Brad that his son died from cocaine laced with fentanyl.
“The coroner said he wouldn’t even have known what hit him. His heart would have stopped instantaneously with the amount that was in his system.
“It could have been anyone that got it. It doesn’t take much to stop your heart.”
Brad says his son wasn’t a junkie or addict and that he was just a kid, “no different than millions of what other people have done.
“It’s just dropping like flies and it doesn’t matter your walk of life.”
He wonders if he could have helped his son and recalls an incident about a month before when Ryelen had a previous overdose after taking cocaine.
The overdose also put him in Ridge Meadows Hospital, unbeknownst to his dad.
But no one even called Brad to tell him his son was in the hospital or when he was discharged.
Instead, all he got a few weeks later was the bill from B.C. Ambulance for the ride to the hospital. Ryelen explained that by saying the ambulance was for a friend.
“If I was notified, I might have been able to stop this,” said Brad.
He’s since learned that within the health-care system, a person 18 years and older, is considered an adult and parents don’t have to be notified.
Brad is certain he wasn’t notified that his son was in the hospital, nor when he was released.
“They knew where to send the bill.”
He added that the four new fentanyl-related deaths in June and July are preventable. The dealers have to be taken off the street, he said.
“They’re mixing it in everything, just trying to get people more hooked. They’re just getting as many people as hooked as possible. There needs to be a change made at every level. Look how many people have died this year in B.C. alone. He said he heard they’re even spraying marijuana buds with a mix of fentanyl and water.
“What if I went out and shot 200 people?” Brad asked.
“Do you think they’d do anything?
There were 433 apparent illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C. from January until the end of July, a 74 per cent increase over the 249 deaths over the same period in 2015.
The government responded Wednesday by de-scheduling the opiate antidote Naloxone, making it easier to get. B.C.’s the first province to do so. It also revealed another of part of its drug awareness campaign.
This April, provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall declared fentanyl overdoses to be a public health emergency. The government has since formed a task force and has opened more than 220 treatment beds in the last two years, with plans to open a total of 500. All emergency responders soon will have naloxone or Narcan kits to treat overdoses.
B.C. is also talking to Ottawa about stepping up measures against illegal fentanyl imports restricting machinery used to make street drugs.