Mothers connect to bring trailer to Bell Island for needle exchange

Susan Boone says 12,000 needles were exchanged on Bell Island when the program operated out of a house there.

Trailer donated by woman who lost son to drug overdose

This sportsman travel trailer will soon be the new needle exchange facility on Bell Island, thanks to TIna Marie Kavanagh who bought it after losing her son to an overdose. (

Bell Island is getting its own needle exchange program for intravenous drug users, thanks in part to the efforts of two mothers who have experienced the devastation of their children's addictions.

Susan Boone didn't know the drug problem on Bell Island was so serious — until one day the phone rang, and she heard what no parent ever wants to.

"I got a call from the hospital one day to say that my daughter had overdosed from IV morphine," she told the St. John's Morning Show.

Susan Boone and her daughter in happier times. Boone says her daugher, now a young adult, overdosed on IV morphine and she's not the only one on Bell Island with a drug problem. (Submitted by Susan Boone)

After her daughter recovered from that, Boone was shocked when the health care centre on Bell Island discharged her with no services to address the root of her addiction.

"I didn't know what to do so I started getting on Facebook and asking anybody to help me. That's where it all started," she said.

Boone launched the Heal Bell Island Facebook group, a place for people to discuss the island's drug problem and ways to combat it.

Need for a facility

People who need methadone treatment or want to obtain safe needles would have to travel by ferry to Portugal Cove-St. Philip's and then to St. John's, something Boone said would take the better part of a day and be costly.

She and other volunteers decided a satellite office was needed on the island. At first, they launched a needle exchange in someone's house. 

The experience opened Boone's eyes to just how serious the drug problem was on Bell Island.

"In three months we had 12,000 needles, that's 4,000 a month," she said.

While St. John's has a needle exchange program, Boone says it's too far away. She says about 4,000 needles a month were turned in on Bell Island. (Mel Evans/Associated Press)

Wanting to move out of a house, the group secured another space, but the deal fell through.

Then a woman who lost her own son to a suspected fentanyl overdose, Tina Marie Kavanagh, announced she would be buying an RV to be used as a clean-needle exchange on Bell Island.

Boone said the trailer, which was bought in Baie Verte, should be up and running by the end of the month.

Called In Good Hands, the trailer will be a non-judgemental space staffed by volunteers who will hand out clean needles, and educational materials to help get users on the road to recovery.

"Addicts deserve support and respect. They will be 'In Good Hands,' thanks to the volunteers, friends and family and my son David, protecting them from Heaven," Kavanagh wrote in a Facebook post.

'North America's problem now'

Boone, who acknowledged that her daughter is still struggling, hopes the community will be behind the program, and wants to get the message out that hard drugs are much more prevalent in society than some think.

"I can't walk down the road, I can't go to the grocery store or flick on Facebook without a mom sending me a message or pulling me aside saying they're so scared for their daughter or son, they don't know what to do," she said.

"It's not only Bell Island or Newfoundland. This is North America's problem now."

With files from St. John's Morning Show