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

opioid addiction

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

Just Posted

Kootenay doctor among 82 physicians, dentists calling on province for mandatory mask rule

Open letter says masks should be worn in indoor public spaces, public transportation or in crowds

West Kootenay region experiences drier-than-normal July: Report

The region only received around 57% of its normal precipitation during the month

Rossland Heritage Commission looks for new members

You have until Sept. 4 to apply to become a member

Search and Rescue receives unprecedented funding from province

South Columbia Search and Rescue increase their range with addition of jet boat, ‘Second Chance’

Trail Smoke Eaters build strong rookie group

Check out the ‘Next Generation’ of Smoke Eaters, eight rookie commits to bolster line up

Airlines dispute Dr. Henry’s claim they ‘very rarely’ give accurate COVID contact tracing info

Air Canada, WestJet say they provide names and contact information

Dwindling B.C. bamboo supply leaves Calgary Zoo biologists worried about pandas

Zoo has been trying to send pandas back to China since May

B.C. Appeal Court prevents Victoria woman from using the term ‘death midwife’ in her job

Pashta MaryMoon claimed she had been providing “death-care services” for more than 40 years

‘We all have anxieties’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry promises school restart plan safe for B.C. kids

Abbotsford mom worried about her two kids in Beirut following explosion

Shelley Beyak’s children were abducted by their dad in 2018

Young Canadians, hospitality workers bear the brunt of mental strain in 2020: report

A study by Morneau Shepell points to economic uncertainty in the pandemic as the cause for angst

Health Canada recalling more than 50 hand sanitizers in evolving list

Organization says to stop using products listed, and to consult a health-care professional

Airborne hot dog strikes Greater Victoria pedestrian

Police called to 4200-block of Quadra Street for hot dog incident

B.C. scientist, 63, protests in trees set to be removed for Trans Mountain pipeline

Tim Takaro is reaching new heights as he tries to stall the pipeline expansion project in New Westminster

Most Read