By telling her story, this Kelowna mom is reducing the stigma caused by drug overdose deaths - InfoNews

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By telling her story, this Kelowna mom is reducing the stigma caused by drug overdose deaths

Nicole Richard from Wax Pencil Imagery took this picture of members of the Kelowna chapter of Moms Stop the Harm
Image Credit: Wax Pencil Imagery
August 25, 2019 - 7:00 AM

KELOWNA - There are many ways to fight the scourge of deaths caused by drug overdoses.

For Kelowna’s Helen Jennens, her fight was to get every health care provider hooked up to Pharmanet and actually use it.

As the 12th member of the Canadian Moms Stop the Harm and a mother of two sons who died of drug overdoses, she will be leading an International Overdose Awareness Day event in Kelowna next week.

“Our main thing is to acknowledge and honour the lives lost to what we believe is a preventable disease,” Jennens told iNFOnews.ca. “That will break down some stigma if people like me get up and share the name of their loved ones that they’ve lost, unashamedly, and talk about what actually happens in drug mis-use."

Her oldest son, Rian, died eight years ago, in part because the Pharmanet system failed to alert doctors and pharmacists about his condition but also in part because of the stigma attached to using drugs.

Rian was prescribed with Ritalin when he was 13 for attention deficit disorder then started self-medicating with drugs and alcohol a couple of years later. By the time he was 26, he managed to kick his habits through Alcoholics Anonymous programs.

But those programs stress total abstinence. After Rian was injured in a motor vehicle accident and was prescribed pain killers, he felt stigmatized by his former friends because he was using again.

After three years of multiple surgeries and the narcotic painkillers he was prescribed, he took an accidental overdose one night and died.

After collecting up the left over medications, Jennens had them confiscated by the RCMP who told her they contained a lethal amount of narcotics — all legally prescribed.

Rian should have had to pick up his medication on a daily basis instead of having enough on hand to accidently take too many and die, she argued, and took her fight to Pharmanet.

In Tyler’s case, he got hooked on oxycontin after rupturing his Achilles tendon. He got into shopping for drugs through different walk-in clinics that did not check his prescription history.

Three days before he died, he was given – and had filled – a prescription for 90 valium doses. There was no valium in his system when he overdosed so Jennens assumes he sold them for street drugs that ended up killing him.

If his case had been checked through the Pharmanet system, Jennens suggested he might have been given 10 pills that may not have been enough to buy or trade for the drugs that were fatal to him.

Moms Stop the Harm was created in 2015 by three moms from Edmonton and Pender Harbour who suffered similar pain when their sons died of drug overdoses. When they heard Jennens’ story they contacted her and she joined as the 12th member in Canada. Now there are 1,000 and the group includes fathers, siblings and other relatives of drug overdose victims.

They support harm and stigma reduction strategies that include things like safe injection sites, decriminalization of drugs for personal possession, access to Naloxone kits, as well as “accurate health surveillance data that is public and shared in a timely manner.”

Their event is Thursday, Aug. 29 at Kerry Park in downtown Kelowna, starting at 7 p.m., and culminates with a candlelight vigil at 10 p.m. Agencies on site will be talking about treatment, harm reduction and how to use Naloxone.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2019
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