Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/11/2017 (1657 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Dear Mayor Chrest, Brandon-Souris MP Larry Maguire, MLAs Len Isleifson and Reg Helwer, health leaders at Prairie Mountain Health, The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, and members of the Brandon law enforcement community; Brandon has a serious drug problem. And if we don’t do something — and fast — it is going to turn into a full-blown community crisis.
Meth. Is. Everywhere. And it just may be the tip of the iceberg.
There were five deadly overdoses in Abbotsford, B.C., this past Saturday in the span of 10 hours. Three men and two women died. Most were indoors, and they all died alone. Why does it matter? Why should we care? Because this is going to happen in Brandon.
In fact it almost did. Just two weeks ago, we had four overdoses in one weekend. But this is far from over. It has only just begun. And Brandon is in the middle of a drug crisis that is at risk of spreading, if it hasn’t already, across western Manitoba. And the worst part of it; the problem is too big for us to handle. We have two choices; we either come up with a game plan for our community to deal with drug addiction, or get ready for the onslaught of funerals.
Danielle Lalonde and I graduated from the same high school, Erickson Collegiate. And while we both took different paths in life, we recently had a chat on a cold October morning, to talk about the last few years of her life. Danielle and I reconnected through her son’s struggle with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumours to form on nerve tissue. As if life didn’t toss enough challenge Danielle’s way, her son would grow up to develop a serious methamphetamine addiction two years ago.
She has since started the Westman Families of Addicts support group after becoming frustrated with the lack of support for her son. But what she quickly realized, that the group she started to help a handful of parents, quickly grew to a crushing number of families coming forward asking for help.
• Tyler: "How did you get here? How did your son Tyler move from a fight with NFM to meth?"
• Lalonde: "It started with marijuana, which he used to help deal with pain from his illness (another debate for another time) but it quickly isolated him to a group of people that made other drugs available. After three months of first using meth, the family was completely torn apart, leading to different treatment options.
"We were battling the system all the way along, as Tyler struggled with medical issues, mental health issues and addiction issues. And since he didn’t fit the mould, the help just wasn’t there. He’s been to treatment in Winnipeg once and was kicked out after two weeks.
"In Brandon, his court-ordered treatment kicked him out, too. He’s violent and he steals. I cannot have him living in our home. My son is homeless. I can’t believe I just sent one child to university in Alberta and in the meantime the other is an addict living on the street. But we need to get help locally.
"So this past spring I formed a support group after reading about other people online struggling with similar issues. Why not start a support group? Within in 24 hours, over 150 families in the Brandon emailed me directly — 150. There is a closed Facebook group with 80 members and meetings that happen the second Tuesday of each month."
• Tyler: Someone reading this right now is thinking: "poor Dani, this is a terrible thing that has happened to her. I’m so glad this could never happen to me or my kids."
• Lalonde: "Anybody that thinks they have control of their kids after 15 or 16 years old is burying their head in the sand. You do not have control, and all it takes is that one bad decision and it leads to a life of problems. Reality says most people who drink and aren’t alcoholics, and most people who try drugs and aren’t addicts. But some do, and the more available it is, the more young people will try it, so the odds of developing addicts in society goes up. For a healthy community, we are all responsible to come together as a community.
• Tyler: "Where are you at with Tyler?"
•Lalonde: "He calls when he needs something. He uses us to get stuff, but that’s not unusual. We see him here and there. He doesn’t have a phone or social media, so I have to resort to asking others to have him contact me on FB. Quite frankly it scares me every day. He sleeps on the street, in parks or under the bridge. They’re waiting for the shelter to open for the winter. I can’t say it 100 per cent but I think he would like to change his lifestyle. But a 21-day treatment program in Brandon is not built for hard-core drug addicts.
"There are other treatment centres available, but I don’t have the $30K it takes to send him away to get help. I have to live with the horrible reality that my son could die as an addict, living on the street in Brandon. We are already in crisis mode."
• Tyler: "What is the answer to this impending battle?"
• Lalonde: "I honestly don’t think throwing a bunch of money at the problem is going to solve it. I believe that all applicable organizations involved have to come together for a common goal. We all need to start coming up with solutions. I see our community very divided. We have a lot of organizations with a vested interest, but everyone is angling for government dollars and people are not working together.
"I think part of that comes down from the regional health authority, we very much have separated things in the last 10 or 15 years and we really need to come together to create a bigger support network. I don’t see the financial piece as the first part of the picture. I see everyone coming together for a common goal. AFM, the police, the RHA, Teen Challenge, John Howard society etc. — all need to create a common goal and plot a course to get there. A battle plan that ends with a treatment centre.
"But as we’ve seen with other projects where the province and city are involved, dollars, control and personality challenges can get in the way. Brandon has NO DETOX beds in Brandon. Many of our addicts are homeless, so where do they go? How do we treat them?"
Danielle’s group is getting non-profit designation so she can accept donations, but she would like to make the call to other concerned citizens in Brandon, whether they are in the medical, political, law enforcement, and business community to come up with a plan. A weekend summit, a two-hour brainstorm. Maybe a cup of coffee. We have to start somewhere.
Because as incidents of violent crime increase, break and enters increase, car theft, assaults and other crimes rates rise in Brandon and Westman, we can’t just do this for addicts and their families. We have to do this for our community.
Westman Famlies for Addicts can be found on Facebook. Send an email to email@example.com to reach her. Meetings are at the Refit Store every second Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m.
» Tyler Glen is a radio DJ on Star-FM. He writes a weekly column for The Brandon Sun.