In the wake of two recent overdose deaths in White Rock that police have linked to fentanyl, officials are exploring how they can help get the message out to Peninsula residents about the deadly narcotic.
And it’s a message that Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg said needs to get out without delay.
“I’d like to see it happen before Christmas,” Hogg said Wednesday. “I’d like to see it happen tonight… It affects everyone.”
Two men, aged 34 and 58, died last weekend in two separate overdose incidents: one on Saturday morning, at a home in the 15900-block of North Bluff Road where two children were present; and another early Sunday, at a home in the 15200-block of Marine Drive.
White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Daryl Creighton told Peace Arch News Tuesday morning that a hospital blood test on one victim confirmed fentanyl was the only opioid in the man’s system, and that a witness told police the deceased had believed he was taking a combination of heroin and cocaine.
Police suspect the second victim believed he was taking heroin.
According to Creighton – who broached the idea of a community awareness effort with City of White Rock officials on Monday – the deaths were the seaside city’s first this year that have been linked to fentanyl; White Rock recorded just one such overdose fatality in all of 2015.
Across B.C., more than half of 622 illicit-drug overdose deaths this year (as of Oct. 31) have been linked to fentanyl.
But while Hogg Wednesday praised provincial-level efforts to tackle the problem – from the declaration of fentanyl as a public-health emergency, to the establishment of a task force and the equipping of first-responders with the overdose-reversing naloxone – he said for many, the dangers have yet to strike a chord.
He’s hoping those who have been impacted locally will step forward to share their stories in some form of community forum; to put a face on the issue and “make people realize this isn’t just a Downtown Eastside story, which often (is how) the news portray(s) it.
“In our community, this tragedy just reinforces the impact it has,” he said. “Until you’ve realized that, until you have somebody that you know who’s been impacted by that… I don’t think it has that impact.
“Certainly knowing that a (man) with two children in his home tragically died in our community – a visual picture of that will have an impact.”
White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin said his city would support a local initiative, but that it makes sense for Surrey to take the lead given that the majority of Peninsula residents reside in the neighbouring municipality.
He described the recent deaths as “so tragic,” and suspected as the result of one supplier, but said the issue is one that is difficult to tackle at a local level.
Hogg, a former probation officer and youth detention centre warden, said he hasn’t seen anything that has been as pervasive as fentanyl.
He said his office has reached out to police officials in Surrey and White Rock, as well as Sources Community Resource Centres regarding raising community awareness locally. Fraser Health Authority and Surrey School District should also be involved, he said.
Anyone affected by the issue who would be willing to share their story with the community may contact Hogg’s office at 604-542-3930.