Ronda Lyn Holland

Fentanyl death prompts mother to advocate for education

“I would much rather have my daughter alive and using under control than dead.”

Ronda Holland had her bags packed.

She was ready – and even told her mom – she was on her way to Vancouver.

And then she decided to do one more hit of cocaine.

“I loved my daughter; she has four wonderful kids. She wasn’t a druggie on the streets … She was straight for seven years.”

Just one more hit, before Ronda Holland returned to detox, in Vancouver.

Pat Holland said it was that last hit that killed the Comox Valley resident.

It wasn’t the cocaine, said Holland, but the fentanyl it was laced with, that took her daughter’s life.

Ronda passed away Aug. 22 and left behind her mom, her two sets of twins, two siblings, and family and friends.

“She had no intentions of dying. She was going to Vancouver – she had made plans with her daughter to go. She just didn’t know (fentanyl) was in there. I wonder how many other drug addicts really don’t know that it’s in everything.”

Her drug use came as no surprise to Pat, as she supported her daughter throughout her life. When she first found out about her daughter using street drugs years ago, she said there was no cause for concern about fentanyl.

“I knew what drugs she was on. It’s just a plain disease. You wouldn’t turn your daughter out if she had cancer. I never turned my back on her; I helped her each and every time as much as I could. There’s three things I learned about having an addict in my family: you can’t cure it, you can’t control it and you didn’t cause it.”

Throughout the years, Ronda struggled with addiction. It was at her lowest point – not being able to see her children – when she made the decision to enter rehab. She was living on cardboard boxes on Hastings Street in Vancouver.

As she was walking down the street looking for her next hit, she saw a sign for First Step – a recovery centre – and walked in.

The facility accepted her immediately; she was in its program for nearly three years, and left sober. She stayed clean for seven years.

Pat said when her daughter found out that her husband was leaving her, “it was just too much. She said over and over to me the pain was just too bad.”

According to the latest statistics from the BC Coroners Service, fentanyl has been detected in more than four of every five illicit-drug overdose deaths in the province through the first seven months of 2017.

From January through July, 706 of the 876 suspected illicit drug deaths had fentanyl detected, representing an increase of 143 per cent over the same period in 2016.

While preliminary data shows there were 91 suspected drug overdose deaths in July alone – almost three a day – nine out of every 10 deaths occurred indoors. No death occurred at any supervised consumption site or at any of the drug overdose prevention sites.

Pat, who lives in Campbell River, fully supports and plans to volunteer at the supervised consumption sites in the city and in the Comox Valley.

“…these places will teach a drug addict how to (use), and how to do it safely if they’re going to do it at all. You hope they don’t – you hope they get scared straight but that’s not happening. They’ve got to get to these places to get the help and education they need.”

She has now become an advocate for education – particularly on learning how to use and teach others to properly use naloxone kits.

“It’s important to educate these parents who just want to shut the door on their drug-addict kid. The bottom line here is I would much rather have my daughter alive and using under control than dead.

“We can’t take the horse to the water and make them drink. I [would] much rather have my child educated on where and how to use it – never do it alone – do the tasting or sipping thing and always have their kits ready.”

Pat said she initially expected pushback from her family for handing out the kits, but everyone thanked her for doing so.

“Because I’m doing this out of love. I’m not doing it because I’m calling you a drug addict, but I’m doing it because it’s out there and it can happen to anybody.”

For more information or to pick up a naloxone kit, visit avi.org for Comox Valley and Campbell River locations of AIDS Vancouver Island.

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