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

Voters in Saanich North and the Islands, here lining up outside Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre on the first day of advanced voting, are among the provincial leaders in getting in their votes early. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
It’s Election Day in B.C.: Here’s what you need to know to vote

B.C.’s snap election has already broken records for advance voter turnout, mail-in ballots

The track washrooms will be opened up again next year in May. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
Toilets, sinks torn off, graffiti on walls at the Burns Lake track washroom

“Seems to happen once or twice a year” says the Village CAO on the vandalized track washroom

FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, Cullen apologize for Stikine candidate’s comments about Haida candidate

Nathan Cullen had made insensitive comments about Roy Jones Jr. Cheexial

The pile burning will occur to the south of François Lake. (Submitted/Lakes District News)
Pile burning and rehab work on three areas south of François Lake

Smoke might be visible for Burns Lake and neighboring areas

Participants earlier this year in March for Lakes Loppet at the ski club. (Lakes District News file photo)
How is Omineca Ski Club prepping for this ski season?

Covid restrictions, social distancing but ski season to continue

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

RCMP stock photo (Black Press)
Charges laid against Prince George man, 39, in drug trafficking probe

Tyler Aaron Gelowitz is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 18

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read