The number of fatalities from fentanyl is shocking health care providers and drug users alike.
It reached a peak in Vancouver on Dec. 16, when nine people in one night died due to overdoses.
In Maple Ridge, according to the BC Coroner, 24 people died from illicit drug overdoses in the first 10 months of 2016.
Two years ago, for all of 2014, there were 14; and in 2007, there were five.
In September, a packed forum on fentanyl in the gym of Westview secondary heard about the human costs.
Brad Beecroft lost his son Ryelen, 18, to a fentanyl overdose in August. Ryelen had stopped at a Maple Ridge elementary school to do a hit of cocaine, unknowingly laced with fentanyl, before going to see a friend.
“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,” Brad said in September.
At the forum, Dr. Ingrid Tyler, with Fraser Health, repeated her message that Narcan, or naloxone, 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.
The drug’s ability to bring people back from the brink of death is why Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school trustee Susan Carr has campaigned to have the life-saving kits available in all B.C. schools.
The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district made that request to the province in October, but was told in November that it’s up to each school district to decide how to fight the fatalities.
“If a school administrator knows that a school has a high-risk population or is aware of students using drugs on or near school grounds, in addition to the referral and support protocols that the school may have, I recommend obtaining a naloxone kit for the school and ensuring a person is available who is comfortable administering it,” said provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall.
Carr was disappointed in the decision but said Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district staff are now working on an overdose strategy for the six high schools in the district.
“We’ll get the details in the new year. But there’s going to be some kind of plan.”
Carr is at a loss of what to do as the fentanyl overdoses ravage B.C.
“I think what the province is doing, as a whole, isn’t working.”