Lyn Firth says her daughter lay in a B.C. morgue for a month before she learned of the death in an online obituary.
Wendy Kitt died in August at age 35 from an overdose after taking methamphetamine laced with carfentanil, according to her mother.
"She laid in a morgue for a month until I found her. I didn't know she died. I discovered she died by Googling her and I found an obituary online," said Firth.
Firth said the police in Agassiz, where Kitt died, failed to notify the next of kin, despite her daughter having a purse with identification inside.
In a statement issued to CBC, the B.C. Coroners Service said that notification typically comes from police, but they work with partner agencies to notify the next of kin "in a timely fashion".
Due to an ongoing investigation, neither the Agassiz RCMP nor the B.C. Coroners Service were able to provide details as to whether proper protocol was followed.
Not enough support
Firth said that her daughter suffered from mental health and addiction issues from a young age and was first introduced to heroin by a boyfriend at the age of 20.
"We thought that she had left that behind, but that wasn't the case, and she returned to that throughout her adult life when she wasn't able to cope with the pressures of life," Firth explained.
Firth said that her daughter was previously incarcerated, detoxed in prison and was released with no treatment.
"She was encouraged to live a life that was drug free and that was healthy, but she didn't have the tools or the support necessary to be able to help support her."
When Kitt did seek help, she struggled to find it. Firth said she tried to reach out to treatment in New Westminster where her daughter was living, but no beds were available.
"Even though it's urgent care, it's not urgent."
Firth said that because her daughter was an adult, she could not intervene on Kitt's behalf. The last attempt to help her daughter was in early August, the same month she died.
"I was told several times by several different systems that because she's an adult there was nothing I could do and I would just need to let her go."
Break the stigma
Firth, a counsellor who specializes in mothers of addicted adult children, said the first step to combating the current overdose crisis is to break the stigma around addiction.
"The second step would be ensuring there is a system of care in place that is actually supporting a person with mental health issues and addiction issues. What we have in place now is nothing more than a Band-Aid," she said.
"The stigma starts with parents and families. … It's a dirty little secret. We're all keeping a dirty little secret and it's our collective voice that's going to help associations, like the Canadian Mental Health Association, to effect change."
Firth hopes that her story will keep people talking and break down barriers for those living with addiction.
"There are so many Wendys out there. I wasn't able to save mine and I would certainly love to help other parents save their Wendys."
With files from The Early Edition