Funeral chain creates program to underscore the dangers of fentanyl

LANGLEY, B.C. — A funeral services chain in British Columbia is developing a program it hopes will cut the number of drug deaths related to fentanyl among children and young adults.

Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services has created a fentanyl prevention program after a funeral home in the chain reported serving four to five families every month who had lost a loved one to an overdose in Metro Vancouver.

The owner of the chain, Tyrel Burton, says the company felt it could no longer tolerate those numbers and unlike other programs focusing on harm reduction, it decided to aim at prevention through the use of visual aids that it describes as “powerful, perhaps even controversial.”

The program includes a poster of grieving family members surrounding a coffin, under a banner reading “Will fentanyl be the reason for your next family get-together?”

A casket and hearse are also part of the 45-minute presentation aimed at parents and their children aged 12 and up.

The death toll has surged since the powerful opioid fentanyl arrived in the province.

Coroners service statistics between January and September of this year show there were 186 deaths involving victims aged 10 to 29.

The company’s presentation also involves personnel from local victim services and parents who have lost a child or young adult family member to addictive drugs.

“We felt that we had to do something to reach teens and young adults before they become addicted,” Burton said in a news release. “This program is our response to what we see as a critical need.”

Funeral director John Romeyn in nearby Abbotsford said he backs the program after hearing a comment from a grieving dad.

“I had a father say to me, ‘I was supposed to (be choosing) clothes for my daughter to wear for her graduation. Now I’m picking something to wear for her casket,’” he said.

Romeyn said all of those involved in the presentation try to impress on young people that no one is immune from the dangers of fentanyl or other opioids.

“We’ve dealt with pastors’ children and lawyers’ kids, and everyday people who are out there … either experimenting or the casual user who isn’t aware of what’s out there,” he added.

The funeral home plans to visit schools, church youth groups and community centres around Metro Vancouver with presentations, which are expected to begin in early 2018.

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