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

The Downtown Vernon Association is requesting free parking on Saturdays in 2021 to boost recovery efforts of businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
Free Saturday parking in Vernon must wait for budget talks

Downtown Vernon Association request to boost shopping local amid pandemic

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Crime up 31 per cent in Vernon in 2019: Statistics Canada

Increase includes a 45 per cent rise in violent Criminal Code violations

Four staff members at the Okanagan Men’s Centre have tested positive for COVID-19 since Oct. 23, 2020. (Adult and Teen Challenge OMC photo)
Four positive COVID-19 cases at Okanagan Men’s Centre

Those affected are staff and have been in isolation since Oct. 23

Three Okanagan College Mechanical Engineering students manufactured 3D printed Trick-or-Treat Bowls to aid in a physically-distanced Halloween experience amid COVID-19. (3D Okanagan Facebook)
Trick-or-treating made safer thanks to Okanagan College students’ project

3D-printed Trick-or-Treat Bowls available for sale ahead of Halloween

RCMP are investigating a trailer fire off Firwood Road on the Westside, discovered Oct. 27. (Google maps image)
RCMP investigate Westside trailer fire

Burned trailer discovered by RCMP Oct. 27 near Fintry

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A Tuesday Oct. 27, 2020 apartment fire in Penticton killed two and displaced dozens more. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Fatal Penticton apartment fire deemed accidental

The blaze gutted an apartment building on Tuesday morning, killing two people and displacing dozens

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports seven more COVID-19 cases

Eighty-nine cases remain active, none of whom are currently hospitalized

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

This Photoshopped version of the crosswalks near the entrance to the Salmon Arm Arts Centre on Hudson Avenue show what is proposed to help create safety for and show inclusivity to the LGBTQ2S+ community. (Salmon Arm Arts Centre image)
Tri-rainbow crosswalk and Progress flag requested to help make Salmon Arm safe

Council will consider budget requests to help make city inclusive to LBGTQ2S+ community

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Animal care manager Tracy Reynolds confirmed the lynx is the same wildcat that was spotted wandering North Kamloops in broad daylight on Sunday, Oct. 25. BC Wildlife Park.
Lynx found wandering Kamloops taken to BC Wildlife Park

While the lynx’s outward appearance was deemed normal, it actually had an abdominal infection

Wild Tiger
AlleyCats Okanagan: Pet of the week

Meet two lovely felines looking for their forever homes

Most Read