A private gathering was held Sunday to celebrate the life of Dan Sealey, the stepson of B.C. Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham, who died of an accidental overdose earlier this month. (Facebook/Dan Sealey)

Overdose death of B.C. cabinet minister’s stepson underscores need for policy shift, expert says

Dan Sealey died of an illicit drug overdose earlier this month

A leading scholar of drug addiction says the “tragic” and “preventable” death of Dan Sealey — the stepson of local MLA and minister of agriculture Lana Popham — confirms the need for a policy shift.

“It underscores our discussion [regarding] concerns related to an unsafe drug supply and the need for decriminalization and legalization to prevent overdose deaths as a universal approach,” said Bernie Pauly, an associate professor in the UVic School of Nursing and a scientist with the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research.

RELATED: Friends, family remember Dan Sealey, stepson of Minister of Agriculture, in private gathering

RELATED: BC Minister of Agriculture loses stepson to accidental overdose

Sealey, Popham’s step, died earlier this month of an accidental drug overdose at the age of 23. Key details of his death – including the drug that he consumed – remain unknown following a private gathering of friends and family Sunday in lieu of a funeral service.

A Facebook fundraising site started by Paige Sealey — believed to be one of Dan’s two sisters — describes him as “a brilliant, hilarious, happy kid who struggled with both mental illness and addiction later in life.”

RELATED: New report finds B.C. victims of opioids crisis on lower of end of socio-economic spectrum

Pauly said decriminalization of drugs for personal use as supported by organizations like the Canadian Public Health Association should be combined with scaled up harm reduction and treatment, as well as guaranteed annual incomes to address disparities in overdose deaths.

Pauly said the current provincial government has rapidly expanded harm reduction services through measures like the provincial naloxone program, overdose prevention and substitution programs among others.

“However, these services are not evenly implemented in all communities across the province relative to need,” she said. “Overdose prevention sites are often located in shelters and low income housing, so we need to think about reach across the population of people, who may be using substances and not accessing such locations.”

Another key issue concerns stigma, as it is important for people to feel safe to access services. “Decriminalization could contribute to reducing stigma as currently illegal drugs are also highly stigmatized,” she said.

Pauly said deaths like Sealey’s underscore that the current crisis is a public health issue (rather than a criminal one), and she agrees with the observation that Sealey’s death take the issue right into the provincial cabinet.

“We know drug overdoses impact so many families from so many different communities, and this tragedy has to stop,” she said.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Officer shot, man arrested after standoff near Argenta

The officer suffered non-life threatening injuries

PLACE NAMES: More Nelson neighbourhoods

Parklands among lost Nelson neighbourhood names

Books for Kids campaign aiming for $30,000

The fundraising is for free books and literacy programs for thousands of children

‘If we do nothing, the herd will certainly be extirpated’: Caribou maternity pen proposed in Nakusp

The Arrow Lakes Caribou Society is waiting for a response from the province

‘Unity Sailing’ presses for end to ferry dispute

Over 100 people protested the ongoing labour action

B.C.’s rural paramedic program expands, with home support

Advanced care ambulance staff added for six communities

BC Ferries sees steady traffic of post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Ferries filling up fast, sailing waits at some terminals

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Okanagan woman, 91, votes at advance polls despite broken hip, shoulder and wrist

Angela Maynard has voted in almost every election during her lifetime

Heiltsuk Nation open first Big House in 120 years in northern B.C.

Opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘My heart goes out to the mother’: B.C. dad reacts to stabbing death of Ontario boy

Carson Crimeni, who was also 14, was bullied relentlessly, his dad says

BC Ferries filling up fast with post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Monday anticipated to be busiest day of the weekend

‘Wham-bam out the door’: Surrey man’s front yard left ruined by scamming landscaper

Resident warns neighbours to be careful of door-to-door salesmen

Most Read