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Hi All:

My late son and I are featured in this Halton article that was front page news in all of the Halton newspapers on Thursday. Pete died 19 years ago of his opioid overdose (Dec 23 2001).  He was only 25 years old.  As you can tell from the picture, my grief, loss, trauma and pain is still quite noticeable in my eyes. My heart is still broken.  I believe my grief and loss is growing because every time I hear of another overdose my heart shatters again for the loss of another person, and all the family & friends impacted.  19 years later and the opioid overdose deaths and opioid harms continue to spiral out of control. We MUST do better.  Addiction is a health care issue!!

Here is the link to the article:

BettyLou_Kristy Halton Newspaper Jan 2021 R

I also decided to add an excerpt to a speech I did for the launch of Roadmap to Wellness Mar 2020 just before the world shut down due to COVID.

A Mother, Her Son & the Impact of Stigma:

Both my late son and I struggled with substance use/addiction and mental health issues. Pete died Dec 23 2001, at age 25, from an accidental mixed drug overdose. Oxycontin medication mixed with psychiatric medication. That is how he ‘technically died’....but in fact he died from loss of hope and the pervasive feeling that the world did not care about him. That he was an ‘addict’. That it was his fault.  No matter what I did, I could not love my son back to wellness or restore his dignity. In large part because I did not have any self worth myself. That had been stripped from me too- An indelible stain that was left over from when I too was considered a useless addict.

Care providers could not get us out of the room fast enough. We, at separate times in our journeys became the ‘elephant in the room’.  We were not wanted.  We were considered to be hard to manage.   We were dismissed as non-compliant because of our relapses.  We were blamed, shamed and often told that others who really wanted to get better needed the space that we were taking up.  That is how it felt.....and on top of all of that....society dismissed us as drug using misfits who ‘choose that lifestyle’.

Pete and I were both impacted by so many layers of STIGMA at so many intersections of our collective journeys. Stigma contributes to the destruction of life. It is a barrier to care and is culpable in many deaths. It is inherently dangerous to any vulnerable demographic because it is a bully and it breeds loud bullies that define, limit and restrict choice.....particularly harm reduction choices.  It has this innate ability to de-humanize us.

To me, as a person with lived experience who received care but very little actual ‘caring’- and as a bereaved mother who watched her haunted son turn into a ghost that nobody seemed to care about; it is all about the foundational layer of caring about each other.  It is about the human connection. It is about all of us being treated humanely.  We all need to feel valued, respected and treated in a decent, dignified and empowering way.  That is what nurtures hope and healing.


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  • BettyLou_Kristy Halton Newspaper Jan 2021 R
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Hi Angie

I am really 'conflicted' about the why. Over my journey I have been an outsider and an insider. Started as a bereaved mother advocate in the community. Then moved through the continuum to over 15 years of systems advocacy to influence policy, planing and direction of resources/funding.   Have also been the Director of Support House's Centre for Innovation in Peer Support for the last 6 years. And in June 2020, was appointed as the Chair of the Health Minister's Patient & Family Advisory Council. (I know that you know all this) LOL. But my point is that I have seen so many people, organizations and government(s) work so hard trying to get a handle on this situation.  I have seen phenomenal leaders. REALLY good and fair people sincerely trying to do the best they can.  So many people going above and beyond.

But it is still utter carnage.

I think the conundrum is the complexity.  It is like this huge organism of destruction.

  • It is Big Pharma.
  • It is the potency of opioids.
  • It is a poisoned drug supply.
  • It is the inability of the system to meet the multiple needs that require both a social and medical response to mitigate so many inequities and gaps.
  • It is the in-fighting and polarization of substance use/addiction philosophies (abstinence versus harm reduction).
  • It is the imbalance in providing 'person centered/ person directed care' to meet people where they are at versus the tendency to criminalize
  • It is the tendency to try to force a person into a treatment that does not fit and/or that they are not ready for yet due to trauma or other things.
  • But most of all it is a huge ugly societal judgement and rejection of people who are using substances or caught in addiction.

And a whole other host of things.

Last edited by Registered Member

Amazingly eloquent writing! Rcently a number of organizations come out to persuade the public stop asking lung cancer surferrers if they were a smoker.  This is called strong support. When I heard it, I wished it would happen in mental health field, too. The heavy cloud of stigma on overdose has been lifted but it still lingering.  I agree with you in your original article what caring, understanding and kindness can do to support in addition of improving policy. 


Being a retired lawyer, I may be guilty of "to someone who has a hammer everything looks like a nail". But. As big as the silo is between addiction and other mental health conditions, the silo is bigger between health law and addiction/other mental health conditions. And I don't have a 30 second elevator speech.

I think it would be great if you could attend one of the Stakeholder Meetings for the Ontario Family Caregivers' Advisory Network (OFCAN). I'll email you.


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