April 22 marked three months since the overdose death of 15-year-old Squamish student Steffanie Lawrence.
It has been more than two months since her parents went public with a plea that changes be made to how addictions and mental health issues of minors are dealt with in B.C.
Lawrence was one of 126 people in the province who died from an illegal drug overdose in January, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.
It is estimated that for every fatal overdose there are 10 non-fatal overdoses.
In February, 102 people died from an overdose. About half of those who died were between 19 and 39 years old. Almost all died indoors. “This suggests the trend of people using drugs alone or in the presence of someone who is unwilling or unable to call 9-1-1 is continuing,” reads the recent provincial progress report on the epidemic.
Lawrence’s parents have called on the provincial government to act.
In particular, they want to see more comprehensive help for families struggling with children who are addicted to drugs and they want a safe care act so that — with court approval — parents can force their teens into treatment.
Squamish residents must not get complacent about this crisis.
If more than 1,400 people in B.C., and 43 in our region, had died due to anything else — literally anything else — over the last year, there would be an uproar.
Why is it different with these overdoses?
Because we judge and we assign blame.
But how far do we want to take our rationale? If anyone ever does something “wrong,” he or she deserves to die? Most of us would be in trouble then, wouldn’t we.
This opioid epidemic is stealing our children, our sisters, brothers and friends.
The provincial government is making an effort.
The minister and staff from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions are meeting with families who have lived through overdose and addiction, according to a ministry spokesperson who added, “feedback gathered will be used to guide the development of our mental health and addictions strategy.”
The goal does seem to be to make changes to ensure those who need it can seamlessly access the mental health and addictions supports they need.
But those in government put their energies and attention where the public demands.
Squamish residents have to continue to advocate.
First, if you haven’t already, read the April 5 recommendations by the BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel — these guidelines were drafted by those on the front lines of this crisis. Next, write to Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy [email@example.com] and demand these reccomendations are adopted.
Also, make sure you have access at work, home or school to naloxone, an opioid antidote.
This epidemic is taking too many Steffanies. Enough is enough.