“My son would’ve been better off homeless,” says Maggie Plett, whose son Zach died face-down in bed, of a fentanyl overdose of all things, in a rehab where he’d sought hope, recovery and a new beginning.
Can there be any more damning indictment of such a place than this grieving mother’s words?
Plett said her son’s body lay there for hours before his death was discovered, on a bed with mouldy sheets. When she went to pick up his effects, she said, a roommate was wearing her dead son’s shoes.
For three decades – three decades – we’ve been writing stories about local recovery houses that fall far short of their billing, since our report entitled “Rehab Rampant,” was published in the early 1990s.
We have since been through Liberal and NDP provincial governments, several city councils, and other significant changes of the guard. And yet, in the year 2019, there is this tragic story of a young man who died while wrestling with his demons in wretched surroundings.
Two days before he died, Plett said, her son had left another rehab house with six bedrooms, 18 men and two washrooms (one out of order). He was shown the door, his mom said, for complaining about the living conditions there.
It must be noted that there are regulated facilities in Surrey that do a fine job of helping vulnerable men and women on their journey to recovery. And five years ago, the city closed more than 100 unregulated rehab houses within seven months.
Today, bylaws continues to investigate recovery houses in what appears to be a tidal campaign of attrition.
So, the will is there.
That said, it’s past time – well beyond past time – that authorities strike cold fear into the hearts of bad-actor rehabs that fail people they are purporting to help.
Examples must be made. And they must be swift and harsh, before another mother whose child is seeking help to defeat his or her addiction tells us – like Plett told reporter Tracy Holmes – “I wouldn’t let a dead animal rot in that place.”