Consultations to begin on Calgary's first supervised consumption site

Calgary Herald, June 14, 2017

Petra Schulz was on hand to endorse the announcement on behalf of MSTH and all families who's loved ones could have been saved with timely harm reduction and treatment.

Petra Schulz, who lost her 25-year-old son, Danny, to a fentanyl overdose in 2014, said she’s pleased Calgary is moving in the direction of supervised consumption services. But she added that while the service is “very much needed,” she also wants to see different solutions for drug users outside the downtown.

“We need to bring rapid access to treatment wherever people are . . . so this is great, but we can’t stop here,” she said.

“We need to move out, and not just in the suburban communities, the cities, but there are many rural Albertans that are using drugs and that need help.”

Consultations to begin on Calgary's first supervised consumption site

'Our aim ... is to keep people alive': Alberta invests $30M to deal with opioid crisis

CBC News Edmonton, May 31, 2017

The Alberta government is setting up a 14-member commission with a $30-million budget to deal with the skyrocketing numbers of deaths caused by overdoses of fentanyl and other opioids.... people involved in the commission include Petra Schulz, an Edmonton mother whose son died of a fentanyl overdose in 2014, Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, the physician lead for the Aboriginal Health Program with Alberta Health Services, and Marliss Taylor, the registered nurse who is program manager for Streetworks in Edmonton.

'Our aim ... is to keep people alive': Alberta invests $30M to deal with opioid crisis

New commission to guide opioid emergency response

Alberta Health, May 31, 2017

The province has established a dedicated emergency commission to help ramp up Alberta’s ability to respond to the opioid crisis.

“I’m pleased that the family voice is being included on the commission. My son Danny died of an accidental overdose. I don’t want one more family to suffer such a tragic loss. Today’s announcement gives hope that lives will be saved.”

Petra Schulz, Moms Stop The Harm and member, Minister’s Opioid Emergency Response Commission

New commission to guide opioid emergency response

Why did it take me 3 years to get my Naloxone kit?

It took me a long time to get my own kit, thankfully not for lack of access but because of the need to overcome my own feelings of guilt fur not having gone to Danny's house that night almost 3 years ago, and for not having known that naloxone existed. As a proponent of this live saving tool

I felt like a bit of a cheat not to have one. Well, I slayed another dragon in my grief process and am now the owner of a kit that I am proud to carry, but hope not to have reason to use. Do you have your own kit? Visit our resources page to find out where you can get your own kit.

Fentanyl is just the symptom. Who caused the crisis?

Petra Schulz, April 5, 2017

If you only read one article this month, make it this one please! Fentanyl is just the symptom, while the origin of the crisis has much do do with prescription practices and the lies the makers of Oxycontin used to make billions, while thousands have died. Our son Danny started opioids with prescription drugs he obtained on the illicit market, like many of his now dead peers. Others got the drugs from the Drs. with the same tragic outcome. But as it seems, some execs always find a way to make money, no matter what the "collateral damage is. I object if the "collateral damage" is my son or anyone child. Do you agree that Purdue pharma should be held accountable?

Hardline approach to drug use costing lives, advocates tell Edmonton crowd

Edmonton Journal, March 10, 2017

Petra Schulz said it is foolish to think teenagers and young adults are not going to get into drugs, so one of her main messages is to encourage anyone at risk to practice safe habits — including having a naloxone kit nearby to reverse the effects of an overdose.

She said decriminalization would also be a good starting point to begin changing attitudes around drug use, and to shift people out of the justice system and into health programs. “We’ve had 50 years of a war on drugs and the only thing we have to show for it is a mounting death toll,” she said.

Hardline approach to drug use costing lives, advocates tell Edmonton crowd

#LifeWontWait National Day of Action on the opioid crisis

Edmonton February 21, 2017

Petra Schulz' comments at the National Day of Action in Edmotnon

Moms Stop the Harm is standing in solidarity with AWARE and CAPUD because we know, that lives wont wait. Our group has grown to almost 100 in less than a year and most of us either mourn the loss of a loved one, or have who is seeking recovery or both. We are only the tip of the iceberg, as thousands of Canadian families have lost loved ones to drug policies that consider our children to be dispensable.

Every time a new mom/dad/sister/brother of spouse joins us, it is a story of sadness and despair. Lives lost and the lives of those who mourn irrevocably changed. I feel a sense of urgency and panic with every family. I know it does not have to bee this way. The solutions are readily available. They range of simple and affordable harm reduction options.

The improved access to Naloxone is great and has saved many lives, why do people need to overdose in the first place? Why do people need to buy dangerous drugs on the street?
On the news we may hear about people being buried in an avalanche. Do we stand on that pile of snow and say, “Hey buddy, you made some bad choices, dig yourself out’? But that is exactly what we do with people who use drugs, without looking at the underlying issues, the trauma or mental health issues.”

We need access to safer substances for use and for treatment and we need supervised consumption services in cities, small towns, reserves and in jails. We need to teach young people how to stay safe because there are always people who use drugs. Primarily, we need to end a failed war on drugs that criminalizes those in need or care and support.

It has cost too many lives, and as a mom who will never her hug and hold her youngest child again, I tell you that Lives Wont Wait and neither will we.

Reducing Harm

MacEwan News, February 10, 2017

Petra Schulz, a MacEwan University faculty member, never planned to be a harm reduction advocate. “I too was once a soccer mom,” she told a standing-room-only audience in the Kule Theatre.

In an effort to expand awareness across the university and to create dialogue, Petra proposed a panel discussion, hosted by the Faculty of Nursing and the Faculty of Health and Community Studies, that brought together experts from a range of backgrounds—health-care providers, community members, educators, academics and people who use drugs—to share their perspectives.

Reducing Harm

Opioid Symposium MacEwan University

MacEwan University, February 6, 2017

This panel presentation discussed the current opioid health crisis that has cost hundreds of lives across the country, and explained the concept of harm reduction and provided information about the harm reduction initiatives currently underway in Edmonton.

Opioid Symposium MacEwan University

The following media reports resulted from the opioid forum:

MacEwan University panel conference to tackle ongoing opioid crisis
Edmonton Journal, February 6, 2017

Battle against fentanyl must include input from drug users, says former addict
CBC News Edmonton, February 6, 2-16

Alberta government announcing new strategy to battle opioid epidemic
Global News Edmonton, February 7, 2014

Opioid numbers needed immediately: Edmonton advocate
Metro News Edmonton, February 7, 2017

Safe-injection sites save lives

Re. “Injection sites get tepid response in poll,” Jan. 18

Since our youngest son died from an accidental overdose to fentanyl in 2014, I have become an advocate for measures that reduce the harm that come from drug use. People who struggle with addiction don’t have a “choice” to just stop taking the drug they have become dependent on without access to treatment that is in very short supply.

Supervised injection services are one piece of the harm-reduction puzzle. In my conversations with even the greatest skeptics I found that most people support these services when I explain why they exist and what they do for people.

If the question is, “Do you support sites where people inject illegal drugs?” you get a different answer than to the question, “Do you support a health-care service that prevents overdose deaths, cuts infection risk, saves health-care costs, reduces public disorder (e.g. public injecting, unsafe needle disposal) and increases the number of people going into treatment by 30 per cent?” Supervised injection services are proven to do all these things.

As a mom, the most important aspect of harm reduction is to keep them alive, so they have a chance to make a better decision on another day.

Petra Schulz, founding member of Moms Stop The Harm, Edmonton

Published in the Edmonton Journal, January 20, 2017

Edmonton Group Seeking Support for Supervised Injection Services

City councillors express support for safe consumption sites in Edmonton

Metro News Edmonton, December 5, 2016

Petra Schulz is a member of the coalition Access to Medically Supervised Injection Services Edmonton. The group presented their proposal to a City Council committee in preparation for public engagement in the new year.

"The solutions are there, they're simple and they're inexpensive," Petra told council.

City councillors express support for safe consumption sites in Edmonton

Edmonton takes controversial safe injection sites to the public

Edmonton Journal, December 5, 2016

“Harm reduction means keeping them alive so they can make a better decision another day,” said Petra Schulz, a mother who lost her son Danny to a fentanyl overdose.

Edmonton takes controversial safe injection sites to the public

Safe injection site may have saved life of 'passionate chef,' mother says

CBC Edmonton, December 5, 2016

"We blame it on the victim, we blame it on the person. That is why people like our son have such a hard time reaching out and getting the help they need," she said.
"My story is about telling that people who need these sites, people who struggle with opioid addiction, are people just like everybody else."

Safe injection site may have saved life of 'passionate chef,' mother says

Edmonton councillors to discuss safe-injection sites

Global News Edmonton, December 4, 2016

“For me, supervised consumption services, they are one piece of the puzzle in harm reduction and harm reduction is what would have saved Danny’s life. If the harm reduction measures we talk about now had been available to him, he would still be here today.” -Petra Schulz

Edmonton councillors to discuss safe-injection sites

Speaking to university students about drug safety

Yesterday I gave another "Danny Talk" to students at MacEwan University where I also teach.
This was a message from one student after the talk: "Thank you so much for speaking up on this topic. Thank you so much for bringing this all to light. Thank you so much for challenging it. I can only hope that your group is heard and that organizations open their minds and realize that knowledge is power and focusing on harm reduction is what needs to happen."

It is always very rewarding to speak to students and to share our story, explain about the need for harm reduction and make recommendations to keep people safe. Speaking to students (future nurses and future educators) means to pay forward and to inform future practice. This is the third talk this semester and after every talk there are at least one of two students who have a friend or loved one who struggles with substance misuse. All these individuals promised to get a Naloxone kit for themselves and their loved ones.

Petra Schulz

Opioid-related emergency room visits 57% higher in Alberta than Ontario: report

Global News Edmonton, November 16, 2016

“It is heart-wrenching to see the numbers,” she said. “But while these numbers are high, the actual numbers are still far greater… There are various situations where people overdose and in many cases they don’t make it to the hospital so they would not have been captured in these statistics.” MSTH Petra Schulz in her interview with Global News.

Opioid-related emergency room visits 57% higher in Alberta than Ontario: report

Petra’s Presentation at the RCMP, Calgary Police, Edmonton Police, and ASLET Fentanyl Conference

Calgary– October 17-18, 2016, 

Edmonton – October 20-21, 2016

Petra Schulz was one of the invited speakers at the conference and presented in a session called “Health’s Side of the Fentanyl Crisis”, together with the Acting Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Karen Grimsrud, Marlisss Taylor and .Mathew Wong,  from the harm reduction program Streetworks. 

We lost her youngest child Danny to an accidental Fentanyl overdose in 2014. Danny was 25 years old.  Through the lessons learned from my personal experience and by sharing Danny's story I have become an advocate for drug policy reform aimed at reducing the harm associated with substance use. I hope that the expansion of harm reduction services in Alberta and the rest of Canada will leave a legacy in memory of our son.  Danny felt strongly about organ donation, now he is donating his story. 

What I and other mothers of our network, Moms Stop the Harm, have learned can be summarized in 8 messages. 

Danny was in recovery when one more pill, which he thought was a fake OxyContin, but was in fact Fentanyl, took his life two and a half years ago.  We did not know about the increased risk in recovery, when the person’s tolerance for the drug is lowered and when they are less informed about the scene and dangerous drugs. 

He was one of the early victims, before Fentanyl made the news, and before there were any health warnings. Those came months after Danny died, first from the RCMP and much later from health services. 

Danny’s drug dependence started with OxyContin, but he had to switch to street drugs, mostly heroin, when OxyContin was made tamper proof. We can learn at lot from the reformulation of Oxycontin, and the emergence of Fentanyl, Carfentanil and W18. Every time we take a drug away and don’t help those using, we drive them to more dangerous drugs.  It is like the person who struggles with OCD and compulsively washes their hands. We can ban one brand of soap after the other, but the compulsion will remain if left untreated.

After Danny died we decided to be open about the cause of his death. We wanted to end the silence and the stigma. Friends and family, his workplace were surprised. Danny did not look like an “addict” - a word I don’t care for much.  How does a person who struggles with addiction look like? In most cases, it is an invisible condition. Danny came from a supportive family and he did not grow up to be a substance user. My goal was not to be a harm reduction advocate. I too was once a soccer mom. 

Message 1: Overdoes can affect anyone

When Danny died he had been in recovery for a year and a half. He worked as a chef in one of Edmonton’s best restaurants, he lived in a downtown apartment and he had taken a trip to California with his dad. 

What worked for Danny was substitution treatment with Methadone combined with counselling, which we paid for privately. The only thing the public health system offered was a list of 12 step groups, that would not have taken him on the methadone. What did not work was the fact that both he and we were keen to have him “drug free” and he did not stay on the Methadone long enough to be stable. 

For a while seemed we had the old Danny back, the kid I knew before he became dependant on drugs. On the outside, he looked like a successful young man, but he was struggling. 

His addiction started as his way of dealing with his severe social anxiety, but there were other risk factors: A diagnosis with a learning disability as a child, being gay, working in an environment were drug use is prevalent. He told me once that after he took the drug he could just walk into any room and just be himself, and I wondered if being yourself is too much to ask. Should we not help young people like Danny, so that their mental health issue is addressed and they don’t turn to dugs? In our mothers group, almost all the children who died had mental health issues.

Another important risk factor is how the user takes the drug. Danny had progressed to intravenous injection, which has the highest risk of overdose. 

Message 2: Know the risk factors

We learned a lot since he died –  the missing ingredient for him and for us was harm reduction, which is best kept secret in additions treatment. So much of what is done in the addictions field is based on morals or on societal norms, rather than best practice. Despite the evidence to the contrary the single focus of information for parents and users is to get “clean” - another term I don’t care for much, as people who take drugs are not “dirty. People relapse and we did not learn about potential lifesaving solutions, such as Naloxone and how substitution therapy should work, until it was too late.  

I hope you will all carry Naloxone, or if you are not able to carry, at least know how it works. Naloxone does not solve the problem of substance misuse, but our rates of death from overdose would be much worse if it was not available. 

Message 3: Harm reduction saves lives

As a society, we need a paradigm shift away from treating substance use as a criminal justice problem, to approaching it as a health and human rights issue. 

Our mothers group calls for the decriminalization of personal use and possession of illicit drugs, so people get the help they need. This might a big shift for society, but decriminalizingpossession has been shown to save lives and reduce crime in several European countries, where it is practiced.  Since decriminalization in Portugal, rates of drug use have not increased, far fewer people arrested and incarcerated for drugs, more people receive drug treatment, incidence of HIV/AIDS and drug-induced deaths have been significantly reduced. 

Locking people up for using drugs causes tremendous harm to the individuals, their families and to society, while doing nothing to help those who need and want treatment. And it does nothing to reducing the supply of illicit drugs. 

Message 4: Support, Don’t punish.

Danny was as safety conscious as he could be, doing something very dangerous. He always bought new needles, but that day he was home alone, so nobody could assist him when he overdosed. I can’t tell you how many times I imagine myself finding him in time with a Naloxone kit in my purse. I can visualize what I would have done, but never got a chance to do. 

Message 5: Do not do drugs alone, have a safe observer

These rules are more important since the arrival of new and more toxic drugs, such as Fentanyl, Carfentanil and W18, that have changed the landscape of drug use.  Before Fentanyl, the people were most at risk were people like Danny who are dependant on opioids.  

It is a well-established fact that most users are not addicted to the drugs they take and that most people who use, never develop a dependence. For those individuals, the situation has drastically changed with toxic synthetic opioids being mixed into recreational drugs. These occasional users are also less educated about the risk. Human nature being what it is there will always be people who take drugs. What we need are good tools and sound education, especially for young people, not only on the dangers of drugs, but also on staying safe, much like we teach about safe sex and drinking and driving. 

Message 6: Know what an overdose looks like - recognize the signs of an overdose, know how to respond. Have a Naloxone kit.  

I do not need to explain to this group how important timely intervention is when someone stops breathing. I know two mothers whose children would be here today if their friends would have called 911.  We need to pass Bill C-224 Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act (currently at the report stage - House) so no one is charged or arrested when someone overdoses.

Message7: Don’t Run, call 911. 

People do recover from substance use if we use the right treatment approaches, combined with harm reduction measures to keep people alive. Some people simply outgrow their dependence when they mature or life circumstance changes. 

Message 7: Recovery is possible

Danny came close to that point. He had dreams of joining the armed forces. He wanted to present a cooking workshop at Camp firefly, a summer camp for LGBTQ youth that he had once attended. He wanted to talk to his head chef about creating job opportunities for marginalized youth, and he wanted to plant more fruit trees at our cottage.

He is on our mind every day and I try to think about the loving, caring son he was and the great meals he cooked. I can’t help to also think about how different the outcome could have been. 

Message 8: To me as a mom harm reduction is simple – to keep them alive so they can make a better decision on another day.