A Gulf Islands resident plans to petition Dr. Bonnie Henry to announce overdose deaths the same way COVID-19 deaths are reported publicly.
Carina Stone lost her husband, Michael Stone – a renowned teacher of yoga and Buddhism – to fentanyl poisoning in 2017 after he bought street drugs in Victoria, likely to self-medicate his bipolar disorder.
On a day around the first year anniversary of his death, she drove to the spot he had been found, next to the public library.
“I turned the corner and there was the response team to an overdose,” she says. “It was a middle-aged man, a fresh haircut, same profile as [Michael] the day he died – and he was seizing on a gurney, getting put into an ambulance. It’s everywhere.”
Stone says she feels privileged through her loss. Being able to speak publicly about Michael and his struggles with mental illness because he was a public figure, Stone says was healing for her.
“To not be confined by the stigma in my grieving process has been really important for me and really lucky and I think, unusual in the context of these kinds of losses.”
The petition, created on June 13, has garnered more than 1,300 signatures. Stone says the public is witnessing B.C. set an example through its response to the pandemic. Henry has been featured in publications across the world and singled out by The New York Times as the ‘doctor who aced the coronavirus test.’
“She’s someone who really, really cares in the most important kind of way,” says Stone, calling Henry an ally in the overdose crisis.
In May, B.C. had 170 overdose deaths – the most in a single month since the crisis was declared in 2016.
“My husband was known, so when he died it was public and he wasn’t just one number,” says Stone. “I feel like the opposite happens with most of these losses because the ones that aren’t public figures – [their deaths] are quiet and they’re not only just one number but they’re a lump sum.”
The number of overdose deaths is released a few times a year, but Stone wonders if there is a way to shift the way we monitor the situation to something more similar to the way COVID-19 deaths are released.
In the petition, Stone states that she was “struck” by the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“How it’s been managed, for one, but also our public process of grieving the deaths, reaching our hearts out to families who’ve lost loved ones. Each death is accounted for publicly in a press conference, each number is cause for alarm, process, response. Just a number, but learning in “real-time” is humanizing,” Stone writes.
Black Press Media has reached out to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.
To sign the petition visit tinyurl.com/y9tfcexh.