There have been 14 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Maple Ridge so far this year, as of the end of July, and over the weekend emergency services responded to six more non-fatal overdoses.
Now the city’s Strong Kids Team is organizing a fentanyl forum, based on a template that was successful in Delta earlier this month.
The forum will be held on Oct. 5 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Westview secondary.
Organizer Susan Carr has invited speaker Michelle Jansen, who has launched the Brandon Jansen Foundation to fight for better access to addiction treatment. Jansen’s son died of a fentanyl overdose while he was in rehabilitation.
She is joined in her advocacy by her younger son, Nick, 19, who also lost his girlfriend to a fentanyl overdose.
Gwynevere Staddon, 16, died in a Starbucks in Port Moody in August. She had been trying to get into rehab, but was on a months-long waiting list.
Delta municipality hosted its forum after a group of nine friends overdosed about 20 minutes after taking cocaine laced with fentanyl. All nine survived after paramedics administered naloxone, an antidote to opiates.
Last week, the father of Ryelen Beecroft, whose body was found on the grounds of an elementary school in Maple Ridge earlier this month, said his son also overdosed on cocaine laced with fentanyl.
Fentanyl’s victims are not always chronic drug users or addicts, noted Carr.
“The alarming trend now is that fentanyl is being detected in cocaine and pot reaching the casual users,” she said.
“They are people who maybe smoke pot once in a while, or do a line of cocaine. They don’t have the resistance to deal with it.”
Carr, a school board trustee in School District No. 42, would like to see naloxone kits in high schools in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
“We know there are youth who have naloxone kits,” she said.
Anyone can purchase a kit and receive training on how to use it from local pharmacies, without a prescription. Naloxone kids are available free to people who use opioids.
Asked whether elementary schools should also have the kits, Carr said that is a decision for Fraser Health to make.
“I know there is pot smoking in grades 6 and 7,” she said, adding that it would be wise to have at least one staff member at elementary schools trained in using the kits.
Partners in the forum are the RCMP, Fraser Health, Alouette Addictions, Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District, the Maple Ridge Fire Department and paramedics. There will be a presentation from speakers about trends and statistics. The forum is scheduled for 90 minutes, most for questions and-answers.