Funeral chain creates visual campaign to show dangers of fentanyl

Metro Vancouver funeral chain serves up to five families monthly who’s loved one died from overdose

UPDATE: B.C. Coroners Service chief coroner Lisa Lapointe releases statement on funeral chain’s program, saying the service “does not endorse, and will not be participating in, fear-based initiatives.” See more >

A B.C. funeral and cremation company has rolled out a “very visual” fentanyl prevention program that it hopes will cut the number of drug deaths related to opioids among children and young adults.

Funeral homes and crematoriams see the aftermath of overdose deaths – a statistic continuing to climb across the province.

Tyrel Burton, owner of Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services, estimates the chain serves four to five families each month after a loved one has died from an overdose.

In a news release Thursday, Burton said the Metro Vancouver company felt it could no longer tolerate those numbers.

“All too often in recent months, we are being called on to assist a distraught family in planning a funeral service for a teen or young adult family member – the result of one terrible and tragic decision,” a blog post on the companies website reads.

Unlike other programs focusing on harm reduction, Burton said, the campaign is instead using “powerful, perhaps even controversial, visual aids” to talk about the dangers of fentanyl.

“Our focus is harm prevention,” he said.

READ MORE: 19 youth have died from overdoses, B.C.’s top doctor tells parents

READ MORE: Carfentanil detected in 37 deaths between June and September

One piece in the campaign is a poster of grieving family members surrounding a coffin. Underneath the photo, a banner reads: “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 video will include speakers, police victim services and the parent of a child who died from a fentanyl overdose who reads a letter.

The company began raising funds for its educational fentanyl program last year, and was met with $5,000 in support.

The campaign is one of several being taken on by professionals at the forefront of the overdose crisis. Since fentanyl arrived in the province, more than 1,500 people have died.

Health authorities such as Fraser Health and Interior Health have taken on poster campaigns urging people “not to use alone,” and community groups, social workers and even businesses in the hospitality industry have led training on how to use overdose-reversing naloxone kits.

“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.”

Program in response to watching grieving parents

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.

With files from The Canadian Press


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