British Columbia

Too many bodies: Funeral home's blunt warning on fentanyl

A conversation with the bereaved father of a young overdose victim led a funeral home to launch an awareness campaign to warn teens about THE powerful drug's lethal effect.

Vancouver funeral home's awareness campaign warns teens of drug's lethal effect

A poster campaign and presentation developed by a funeral home in Vancouver aims to educate young people about the risks of fentanyl use. (Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services)

A B.C. funeral home hopes a bluntly-worded poster and a stark presentation could reduce drug overdose deaths among young people.

Currently, Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services Vancouver handles funeral arrangements for five or six fentanyl overdose victims every month, funeral director John Romeyn told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

I was supposed to pick out a dress for her to wear to her graduation. Now I have to figure out what she's going to wear in her casket- Bereaved father of teenage overdose victim

Romeyn said a conversation with the bereaved father of one teenaged girl moved him to initiate an awareness campaign about fentanyl's deadly effects. 

"His first comment to me was 'I was supposed to pick out a dress for her to wear to her graduation. Now I have to figure out what she's going to wear in her casket'," Romeyn said.

A year after that conversation, the company has issued a poster that depicts a funeral scene with the banner: "Will fentanyl be the reason for your next family get-together?"

The company has also developed a 45 minute presentation designed for ages 12 and older. It includes speakers from police victim services and the parent of a child who died from a fentanyl overdose.

Romeyn said he hopes to run the program in schools, at church youth groups and community centres to educate young people about the risks attached to fentanyl exposure, before they start experimenting with drugs. 

Schools cool to anti-drug talk

However, he said, at the schools he has approached so far about the presentation, he's encountered reluctance.

"The comments have not been negative, they've just been, 'we're not sure if we want to upset the kids,'" he said. "And of course, exactly what we want to do is upset the kids."

"This is not a scare campaign," Romeyn said. "It's just that there's some stark parts of our program that, you know, are not meant to upset kids, it's meant to educate them."

Currently, Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services handles five to six deaths related to fentanyl overdoses every month, Romeyn said. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Despite the initial reluctance, Romeyn said he believes the funeral home is on the right track with the presentation. 

When five people in Abbotsford died from overdoses recently, he said, he was encouraged by the call for better public education about the risks of overdose for people from all walks of life, not just those entrenched in addiction.

 "It's just getting larger and larger. The issue's not going to go away.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said the B.C. Coroners Service was participating in the project. However, the coroners service says it is not.
    Dec 01, 2017 12:34 PM PT