Mom wants changes after baby found bag of deadly drugs in Kamloops park | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Mom wants changes after baby found bag of deadly drugs in Kamloops park

On the left is the bag that Elliott found at McDonald Park in Kamloops. On the left is her eleven-month-old Poppy, who almost put the bag in her mouth.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK / Stefanie Elliott
July 07, 2020 - 6:30 AM

After her eleven-month-old baby found a packet of drugs in a local park, a Kamloops mom intends to prevent it from happening again.

“Thank god we were with her and able to intervene. If it was somebody else that maybe wasn’t with their kids that very minute, it could’ve been a different story, so thank god it was us,” Stefanie Elliott says.

Elliott brought her two daughters to McDonald Park Sunday at around 9:30 a.m. She says the park is their favourite because it’s close to their house, has a dog area and the kids can use the splash pad in the summer. It’s also often littered with drug paraphernalia.

“For some reason, I don’t know why, I didn’t check that particular time. My kids were on the structure for maybe 30 seconds and I had taken my youngest, Poppy, she’s 11 months old and I popped her on top of the slide. I was standing right there, put my kid down, and she turned around and picked up something,” Elliott says. “I had no idea, I thought it was harmless, I thought it was a leaf. So I said to my oldest, ‘Poppy picked up something, can you go over there and grab it from her?’”

“My eldest grabbed whatever was in her hand and passes it to me, and I then realize it's a drug baggie and I’m like, ‘Holy shit.’”

Elliott says she was mortified when she realized what her baby had been holding — a small baggie containing a purple substance.

“I’m a nurse, I work in mental health and substance use so I’m familiar with substances so I know there’s purple-coloured heroin that's especially dangerous because it has fentanyl or carfentanil... If it would’ve gone into her mouth, it would’ve been instantaneous, she would’ve stopped breathing.”

Elliott immediately rushed her children to the washroom to wash their hands, and then called 911.

Sgt. Sascha Fesenko with the Kamloops RCMP confirms officers showed up to take the drugs, but he isn’t certain about what it was.

“We’ll be disposing of it safely. We may have (tested) it in house with our test kits, but I don’t know if we’re testing it formally,” Fesenko says. “Generally most drugs now have fentanyl so we just assume that at this point.”

After washing their hands, Elliott scanned the area for anything else and found more drug related garbage under the structure.

“I’ve educated my eldest that there’s dangerous garbage that you don’t touch, and that’s a sad thing that my three-year-old knows the difference between safe garbage and dangerous garbage,” Elliot says. “I’ve picked up crack pipes, used needles, tonnes of harm reduction garbage like used sterile water containers or cookers, syringe wrappers… I always clean it up, but it has never been so blatantly out in the open.”

Once she had cleaned the area, she spoke with two City of Kamloops staff who were at the park after opening and cleaning the bathrooms, and she was surprised to find out they didn't scan the play structure for dangerous items.

“It’s a known fact that homeless people or drug users are in the park at night, no question that happens, but then during the day the park is open to the public for children to use,” Elliot says. “Homeless (people) have been there all night, using drugs all night and now kids can go. Is there no transition between day and night use? I just can’t have my kid almost die and not try to create some kind of change from that.”

Elliott says she has reached out to various levels of government about the incident and she believes safe consumption sites and a safe supply are key to curbing the crisis. Although she understands it is a big undertaking to have provincially-run sites, she hopes the City can work to keep the parks safe in the meantime.

“I want it to be a discussion where I’m heard by my city about what we could’ve done to not have my child almost die,” Elliot says. “I want there to be a positive change that came from such an almost tragic incident.”

Byron McCorkell, the City’s community and protective services director, says there’s not an easy fix from the City side.

“It’s a terrible situation and obviously we never want it to happen, but at the same time there’s only so much we can do as a city,” McCorkell says. "One of the biggest complaints and concerns we get as a city is the cost of our operations, people are always talking about how they’re worried about their taxes. At the end of the day, we have a parks department that is built around being cost-effective.”

Although Elliott would like to see staff do a scan of the playgrounds in the morning, McCorkell says it would be difficult to do with more than 75 play structures within Kamloops. He says staff show up in the mornings to turn on waterparks, unlock washrooms, empty garbage bins and remove large piles of trash. There are also staff who do regular landscaping and others who attend to make sure the play structure isn’t damaged, but there’s no one who would remove drug paraphernalia.

“We’re not there 24/7 so when it comes to using any of our parks, there’s a responsibility on the people using them to be aware of their surroundings, to monitor what their children are doing and to participate in keeping a clean and safe environment,” McCorkell says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 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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