The question Sherry Hebeler wanted answered Wednesday at the fentanyl forum in Maple Ridge was where was the help for her son when he needed it.
Her son Bradley Porter, 33, died in a hospital washroom in November 2015, after apparently taking crystal meth that had been laced with fentanyl. He had been admitted to hospital and was addicted to painkillers, but had gone missing.
“Nobody found him for two hours,” Hebeler said, adding hospital security later found him.
And three times previously when her son overdosed, when he was released from hospital, she had called police and asked that he be picked up on outstanding warrants.
She felt that being in jail might be the safest place for him.
But he was not picked up.
“We really have to step it up,” in how people are treated, she said. “I feel that my son was just disposable … “
Similar touching stories and tough questions were part of a two-hour fentanyl forum Wednesday in Westview secondary as people jammed the gymnasium to learn about the drug that is killing thousands.
One resident from Victoria, currently in the Maple Ridge Treatment Centre, had a friend whose daughter died on Boxing Day from an overdose and urged those taking drugs to think twice.
“Just think about the potential impact you have on friends and family, because it can be life-changing.”
Christmas never will be the same for that family, he added.
Dr. Ingrid Tyler, with the Fraser Health, repeated her message that Narcan, or naloxone – the terms are interchangeable – saves lives, reversing the effects of an opioid overdose from fentanyl, which can stop a person’s breathing.
Naloxone is an entirely safe product, Tyler said.
And even if it’s not certain if a person is suffering an overdose, it can still be administered.
“It has no other effects on the body, so it’s very safe.”
However, people should always call 911 is they suspect and overdose, and that person should be taken to emergency, she added.
Ridge Meadows RCMP Supt. Dave Fleugel said dealers are selling fentanyl and lacing other drugs with it because it’s cheap and profitable. It’s also powerful and easily obtainable.
“It’s very difficult for our border services and our postal services to detect.”
Fentanyl has killed 20 people in Maple Ridge this year, so far. That number could hit 30 by the end of the year.
Provincewide, it’s killed 488 people since the start of the year.
Fleugel said it’s hard to prove a manslaughter charge against a dealer for selling fentanyl that leads to an overdose. However, the local detachment is working on such a case, he added.
He told the crowd that people should never worry about being arrested for drug possession when calling in an overdose.
Police who arrive may seize the drugs, “but a prosecution for possession is not our goal.”
One mom in the audience said parents kids are dealing with widespread anxiety. “Anxiety is a huge problem and it’s not being addressed.”
Another mother of a fentanyl user urged parents to watch their kids by keeping an eye out for baggies and drugs with smiley faces. Check their cellphone bills for strange numbers and get a Narcan kit at home, she advised.
There was some positive news.
Mark Goheen, an addictions specialist with Fraser Health, showed stats that showed drug use among youth is down 22 per cent, when it comes to alcohol and 30 per cent for marijuana and 50 per cent for methamphetamines.
While fentanyl is a gamechanger, it’s important not to be paralyzed by it.
He later told a questioner who asked why kids took drugs in the first place. According to the McCreary study, the most common reasons young people take drugs is for fun. Sometimes young people don’t listen to adults but this is the one time they should listen, he said.