B.C.’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe criticized the Fentanyl Prevention Program being released by the funeral chain, Alternatives Funeral & Cremation Services.

B.C.’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe criticized the Fentanyl Prevention Program being released by the funeral chain, Alternatives Funeral & Cremation Services.

Funeral chain defends harshly criticized Fentanyl Prevention Program

Alternatives says presentation ‘has not been seen by anyone’ outside of company

Alternatives Funeral & Cremation Services owner Tyrel Burton has fired back at B.C.’s chief coroner, for what he feels is unwarranted and knee-jerk criticism of the funeral chain’s Fentanyl Prevention Program.

In a press release titled ‘Alternatives Funeral & Cremation Services corrects inaccurate conjectures about its Fentanyl Prevention Program,’ Burton said that a number of “uninformed critics” have remarked on the program.

“Unfortunately, there have been several statements made about the program by individuals in prominent positions that range from inaccurate to untrue,” Burton said.

Burton told Black Press, “to be clear: our Fentanyl Prevention Program is intended for youth who are not existing drug users. It is a prevention program.”

The Aldergrove-based funeral chain has been under fire by B.C.’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe about what she describes as “scare tactics” (that) are not effective when it comes to combating the overdose crisis, following the launch of a “very visual” fentanyl prevention program by Alternatives.

On Nov. 30, Alternatives kicked off the campaign, with Burton described as using “powerful, perhaps even controversial, visual aids” to talk about the dangers of fentanyl.

The campaign includes a poster of grieving family members surrounding a coffin. Underneath the photo, a banner reads:“Will fentanyl be the reason for your next family get-together?”

In a written statement on the B.C. government’s website, Lapointe said that while public education and awareness is important, “the BC Coroners Service does not endorse, and will not be participating in, fear-based initiatives.”

“Evidence suggests that the reasons for drug use are complex and multifaceted, and programs focused on scaring people from using drugs, are not effective in saving lives,” she said.

“Additionally, they tend to increase the stigma surrounding drug use and actually discourage people from seeking help – an obsolete approach that has led to the loss of countless lives.”

• SEE RELATED STORY HERE

Burton said the presentation on fentanyl prevention has not yet been seen by anyone, aside from the Alternatives personnel who have helped to create it and that it will be presented for the first time in January of 2018.

“It is puzzling to us that B.C. chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, has seen fit to pass judgment on the program before it has been put into action, particularly since the BC Coroner’s Service had been fully briefed on the nature of our presentation six months ago and had agreed to support it,” Burton said in the release. “It’s very disappointing to now see that commitment withdrawn.”

Company founder, Lawrence Little, reacted to the guesswork put forward by some as to what the Alternatives program is actually about: “With only the headline of a poster and a photo as ‘evidence’, we have been accused of using scare tactics. However, we feel that a strong dose of reality is the only way to capture a young person’s attention and make an impression that has at least a chance of helping them to resist that first invitation to try drugs. We freely admit that there are some strong visual elements – props, if you will – that are used as scene-setters for the presentation. There will be a hearse onsite; there will be police tape strung around the ‘scene’; and a casket will be in view in the hearse. To those who say these elements are upsetting and will scare those who see them, we would point out that the average youth sees hundreds of similar sights every week either on TV, in movies, or in video games.”

As well, Burton noted that the Alternatives program is categorically not intended for those who are already addicted to drug use. He maintains it is a prevention program, designed for youth 12 to 20 years of age or beyond, who are not addicted and who haven’t yet experimented with drugs.

Alternatives also points out that its Fentanyl Prevention Program strongly relies on parents attending with their children and “encourages moms and dads to see and hear the presentation with their kids, and hopefully use the message as a means of starting or continuing their own conversation at home about the dangers of drug use, particularly fentanyl.”

“Ms. Lapointe has stated that ‘programs based on scaring people from using drugs are not effective in saving lives,’” Burton said.

“What we find truly scary is her blanket condemnation of a program that is only just starting, and forming an opinion based on a photo taken out of context from the top portion of a poster. Indeed, Ms. Lapointe has not even seen the presentation.”

Alternatives Funeral & Cremation Services underscores the need for drug use prevention by pointing out that B.C. is on pace to see more than 1,500 drug-caused deaths this year and as such, “has felt a strong sense of duty to try and stem the tide through the education of our youth.”

Little said if Alternatives’ program turns out to be a waste of time, “well, at least we tried, and we will accept the criticism of those who might say ‘we told you so.’”

“But if our presentation saves the life of even one child, we will consider it a huge success,” Little said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The regional district’s Penticton offices. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Building and bylaw service up in 2020 for RDOS

More complaints were resolved and building permits issued in 2020 than 2019

Penticton city council heard from Dhorea Ramanula, of Paid Employment for People with Lived Experiences Tuesday, Jan. 19. Ramanula’s organization has operated public washrooms in Kelowna staffed by community support workers since April, she says Penticton could benefit from a similar facility. (Michael Rodriguez - Kelowna Capital News)
Penticton interested in new public washroom concept to combat vandalism

Public washrooms with on-site support staff have been operating in Kelowna since April

Aidan & Mandy will play a live-streamed show at the Venables Theatre, Saturday, Jan. 23. (Contributed photo)
Penticton’s own Aidan & Mandy in concert Saturday, Jan. 23

The live show will be streamed from Venables Theatre in Oliver

The BC SPCA is adapting its fundraising after cancelling events due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
BC SPCA gets creative with fundraising as pandemic continues

The non-profit’s in-person fundraising events all had to be cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions

Interior Health has declared the Cariboo Chilcotin a community cluster. (Angie Mindus photo)
Interior Health declares Cariboo Chilcotin region a COVID-19 cluster, 215 cases since Jan. 1

Most cases are related to transmission at social events and gatherings in Williams Lake

Vernon Fire Rescue Services responded to a single-vehicle rollover Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, after a vehicle came into contact with a pedestrian light pole at Kalamalka Lake Road and 14th Avenue. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Minor injuries in rollover after vehicle hits Vernon crosswalk pole

The vehicle flipped onto its side, closing Kalamalka Lake Road

Esa Carriere, 23, was the victim of a 2018 Canada Day homicide. (File)
Youth sentenced in Kelowna Canada Day killing

Young woman pleaded guilty to lesser assault charge, sentenced to 15-month intensive support and supervision program

A rendering of UBC’s planned downtown Kelowna campus. (Contributed)
Kelowna’s new downtown campus to help alleviate UBCO’s space crunch

The sizable development is anticipated to be completed by the fall 2024 semester

Vernon's Noric House long-term care facility is dealing with an influenza outbreak amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)
Two more deaths at Vernon care home

Noric House case numbers remain steady, but death toll rises

A petition to spare the Mount Rose Swanson area from logging later this year has eclipsed 21,000 signatures as of Jan. 20, 2021. (Rose Swanson Mountain/Facebook)
Controversial logging will cut 4% of ‘sensitive’ Armstrong forest area: Ministry

A petition to spare the Rose Swanson area from logging has eclipsed 21,000 signatures

Vernon firefighters douse a fire inside a cardboard bin behind the Shops at Polson off Highway 6 Wednesday, Jan. 20. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
PHOTOS: Dumpster fire behind Vernon shopping mall

Vernon Fire Rescue Services respond doused recycling bin fire backing onto Polson Park

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Most Read