In the seventeen months since Helen Jennens lost her second son to addiction, much has changed in the war against drug-related deaths. But in some ways, very little has changed at all.
Readers of Okanagan Woman met Helen a few short months after her son Tyler had died from an overdose of pure fentanyl in 2016. Five years earlier, her son Rian had died in his sleep from a prescription overdose. (Click to view The War on Drugs... One Woman's Words of Wisdom)
Helen has developed an unbridled passion and boundless energy, creating a voice for her sons and others who suffer from drug issues. She can often be found helping anguished parents who have lost their own children, or have kids battling drugs right now. She is an active member of Moms Stop the Harm, a group of mothers who are assisting those other parents and the addicts themselves. She is a driving force behind The Foundry Kelowna, an integrated service centre for drug and mental health sufferers aged 12 to 24. She is a believer in the works of Dr. Gabor Maté, working tirelessly to bring him and his message about harm reduction to Kelowna.
Recently Dr. Maté, a renowned speaker, bestselling author and expert on addiction, spoke to a packed house in the Delta Grand, Kelowna, for an afternoon workshop and evening presentation that drew over 1,300 participants.
For a dozen years, Dr. Maté’s clinic in Vancouver’s East side opened its’ doors to patients challenged by hard-core drug addiction, mental illness, HIV and related health issues. He was also involved in Vancouver’s Supervised Injection Site. Dr. Maté believes that all addiction is related to personal trauma. Individuals who seek relief from a deep, ongoing and personal pain will turn to addictive substances – including drugs, alcohol and a host of other harmful activities – to relieve that pain. His belief is that a very humane and respectful approach to treatment may buy time or save a patient’s life. His experiences during that time are reflected in his writing, including In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. It is a must-read for families and friends of drug abusers. Dr. Gabor Maté is also launching a website offering online courses in his areas of expertise. To learn more, visit his web site and join his e news. www.drgabormate.com
Helen Jennens has focused her efforts on Moms Stop the Harm and The Foundry. Both of those groups have had a tremendous impact on the issues surrounding drug use. Helen admits, though, that the process is a slow one and education of the general public is paramount.
A year ago, the British Columbia government declared a public health emergency over the expanding fentanyl crisis, which continues to result in unprecedented overdoses and deaths. According to a recent Castanet report, local 911 calls for overdoses and poisonings are on the rise, reflecting a 40 per cent increase from average monthly calls in 2016. The BC Coroners Service reports that 17 people have died in Kelowna alone from overdoses in the first two months of 2017, while the total number of deaths in 2016 was 48. It is clear that there is much work to be done to save lives.
The advent of The Foundry Kelowna will enable mental health and drug patients a ‘one stop shopping’ approach. Prior to this, sufferers often had no way of knowing how and where to get all the help they need.
“Right now, several agencies are required for a young person with this type of issue, and every service you want to access is at a different location. You’re in the wrong place or struggling with wait lists. Often, a person will have to tell their story seven or eight times before they get the necessary care,” Helen explains. “The Foundry is an integrated services hub offering all of those services under one roof. It is being built on Kirschner and is due to open in June. A patient will be seen and assessed by the appropriate health provider that same day, and a recovery plan pu