The other morning, I was having my regular coffee and toast for breakfast while reading an article in the newspaper about the Fentanyl drug problem. A particular article caught my eye and it was the name “Kati Mather” which drew my attention.
A memory came to my mind. I remembered a little girl with bangs and a bathing suit, swimming in a blown-up pool. I remembered a little girl eating a popsicle one summer’s afternoon. Kati Mather was a childhood friend of mine. Now she’s sitting on a black plastic bag on the notorious drug-infested Strip in Surrey hoping that she’ll make it through the day, while I’m sitting comfortably in my kitchen pouring myself another cup of coffee.
Once upon a time, we were both little girls with dreams. Once she was just like me and I just like her. If it were not for the photo evidence, I probably wouldn’t believe that because now our lives could not be more different.
The point of this letter is not to point fingers at addicts or their parents. Nor is it to blame the government for all the ways they have failed our society. The point is not to sit comfortably behind my computer screen and shake my head at all the things Kati shouldn’t have done or should have done.
The point of this letter is to ask you what you will do. What will you do about this problem?
Because Fentanyl is collectively our problem. A drug 100 times stronger than morphine, Fentanyl is a serial killer that is ravaging our streets and targeting our communities, our families, our friends.
Treatment is hard to come by due to the shortage of treatment beds available in BC. The private ones that are available come at a cost of $50,000 for a two month program – a price that is far beyond the budget of most families and addicts.
Between January and June 2016, there have been over 200 deaths in B.C. due to Fentanyl. This is more than a 250 per cent increase over the number of deaths that occurred in 2015. These people are not statistics. They are our neighbours, our classmates, our coworkers, our children, and even our childhood friends.
Agape Street Ministry has a daily outreach ministry in Vancouver, Chilliwack and Surrey that brings hope and help to women suffering from addictions. Volunteers wearing the recognizable red jackets regularly walk the streets to reach out to women like Kati to let them know that society cares. I personally know some of these volunteers who, like me, still have big dreams about building a better world. There are many Katis in this world and it is our social responsibility to give them hope to live their dreams.
If you can’t volunteer by walking the streets to hand out bags of candy and basic hygienic items, consider making a donation. With Halloween just around the corner, Agape Street Ministry will be looking to replenish their stock to fill the candy bags. Like so many not for profit organizations, they are run fully by volunteers but also need financial resources. To learn more about how you can help, visit their website agapestreetministry.org.
The weight of combating Fentanyl does not fall on parents, our firefighters, our police force or even our premier: it falls on each and every one of our shoulders. Fentanyl is not a problem with an easy solution but sharing the weight will make the burden a little bit lighter to bear.
Over the next few weeks I will be wearing a red jacket to be part of the change that needs to happen and I hope that you will join me.
Kazandra Pangilinan, via email