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Claire’s Story

She’s seen people die from substance use during the pandemic.

Claire was staff at the Overdose Prevention Site when she started helping Mark. He was only 13 years old. “He was funny and great to talk to and sassy and argumentative,” she recalls. Unfortunately, he was smoking and later injecting opioids. Four years later, he was gone. Dead at 17 from an overdose.

In those four years, Claire had done what she could to help him overcome his addiction. Even still, he fell through the cracks in the system.

“Substance use services are mainly geared to adults, and what youth services there are, you can’t access them if you are using (drugs),” she says.

In terms of treatment, there were barriers for Mark, and for so many other kids and adults. During the pandemic, services have been incredibly limited and were only offered by phone or Internet. Mark had neither.

Plus, there just aren’t enough free services, and you have to wait.

“There are a lot of privatized treatments you can get into quicker. Some people believe they offer better care. But you can only access them if you can afford to.”

Claire imagines a wellness centre where Mark could have received the services he needed all in one place. For now, that feels like a dream.

“Losing Mark was devastating. All of these losses.” She’s been impacted by fifteen substance-related deaths in the past five months alone. Moving her glasses aside, she wipes the tears with her sleeve. “Someone so young, it’s horrible. And then, you’re mad.”

Claire is 30 and lives in Nanaimo, BC.

To learn more about the Canadian Mental Health Association’s campaign for Free Mental Health Care Now please visit