Editor’s note: The following story was submitted by the Delta Police Department as part of “End the Stigma,” a joint project by the DPD, City City of Delta, Tsawwassen First Nation, Delta School District, Fraser Health Authority and Delta Fire Department aimed at reducing stigma around substance use and connecting residents to community supports and resources. Learn more at delta.ca/endthestigma and share your story at letstalk.delta.ca/endthestigma.
More than 2,200 people died of drug toxicity in 2021, and 19 of those individuals were Delta residents. This is a crisis that has touched many families, including that of a Delta police officer.
Former Sgt. Kevin Jones, who retired in February of 2022, last saw his daughter Sara in November of 2017. She died of an opiate overdose in January of 2018 at the age of 28, leaving behind two young children.
Looking back, Jones describes the ordeal his family experienced as that of having a total loss of control.
“As a police officer, I wasn’t prepared for how powerless I would feel in the face of what happened to Sara,” he said.
In her early 20s, Sara sought medical assistance for endometriosis — an often painful condition. Her doctors prescribed her OxyContin to deal with the pain. But after five years of prescriptions, and a range of doctors, her access to the opioid was cut off.
Over time, opioid users need higher doses of the drug, as their bodies become accustomed to it. By the time Sara’s prescriptions were stopped, Jones says, her dosage was high enough to kill a first-time user.
“When her family doctor cut her off, Sara began doctor shopping to get access to painkillers, and increasingly feigned illness and made ER hospital visits in order to get new prescriptions,” he said.
After being cut off from legal access to opiates, Sara started to access street drugs.
“This was the beginning of the end,” Jones said.
Sara left school, where she’d been studying to become a licensed practical nurse. She also left her husband.
Sara never admitted that she was addicted to opioids.
“She’d say, ‘my body needs them, but my mind doesn’t need them,’” Jones said, recounting a conversation with Sara. “She’d justify herself, saying she didn’t look like a crack addict.”
He paused, then added, “She was a beautiful girl.”
“The drug just took over. It took over control of her life.”
Jones said there were very limited resources he or the family could turn to in order to get help for Sara, and he thinks that even if Sara had been open to entering a full-time recovery program, that it might have taken a year or more to wean her off drugs and build enough supports in place to deal with the inevitable cravings that would continue to happen.
He’s speaking out now to contribute to the conversation about opioid use, drug toxicity and deaths.
“We need to talk about this issue more. Families are suffering.”
The City of Delta, Tsawwassen First Nation, Delta Police Department, Fraser Health Authority and Delta School District are organizing a community forum the evening of April 13, to talk about the opioid crisis and how to reduce the stigma surrounding substance use. There will be exhibitors, speakers talking about their lived experience, and an opportunity for questions and answers. The forum will also include the opportunity to receive naloxone training.
Head to eventbrite.ca (eventbrite.ca/e/end-the-stigma-community-forum-tickets-288219711917) for more information and to register to attend. (Note: registration is optional but helps organizers with planning the event.)