A fa­ther’s pain

Com­mu­nity mourns as dev­as­tated dad pre­pares for his son’s fu­neral

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY SHARON MONT­GOMERY-DUPE

A River Ryan man is liv­ing the nightmare no par­ent should have to en­dure.

Michael Web­ber is pre­par­ing him­self for to­day’s fu­neral for his son Evan Web­ber, 29, who died of a drug over­dose on Satur­day.

“It’s hard, I’m crushed,” Web­ber said with his voice break­ing with emo­tion.

“He’s my only son. It’s not a day you plan you’ll ever have to do, it’s unimag­in­able.”

Web­ber said his son has bat­tled a drug prob­lem over the past year and the cracks in the sys­tem are hor­rific.

“As painful as it is to talk about my son and all this right now, I’m speak­ing out as I feel if it could help some­one else from go­ing through the pain we’re go­ing through now, then it’s worth it,” he said.

“Peo­ple sit­ting home think­ing this doesn’t af­fect them are wrong. I never in my life thought this would af­fect me and look where I’m at now and look where his fam­ily is at. His chil­dren will never see their fa­ther again.”

Michael, who works out West, said he left for work last Fe­bru­ary and when he came home in May, he found out his son was bat­tling an ad­dic­tion. Michael said he lost his wife Heather to can­cer a year and half ago, which af­fected Evan deeply.

“The de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety and stuff he was feel­ing began af­ter he lost his mother. It even­tu­ally led to his drug abuse which started about a year ago.”

Michael said his son went to the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Hos­pi­tal for help and was put in the men­tal health cen­tre for a night and then let out in the morn­ing with three pre­scrip­tions.

“He’s in there bat­tling drug abuse, anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion and they want to send him out the door with pre­scrip­tions and no fol­low-up ap­point­ments. Men­tal health ser­vices and ad­dic­tions ser­vices — it’s frac­tured here.”

Michael got his son a re­fer­ral to see a psy­chi­a­trist but two months went by. When he phoned men­tal health ser­vices, he dis­cov­ered it takes nine months to a year for the ap­point­ment.

Michael said dur­ing his son’s last stint in detox, he made a con­nec­tion with a so­cial worker who sped up the ap­point­ment for the psy­chi­a­trist. His first ap­point­ment was the day be­fore he died.

Michael said he doesn’t blame those in health care, he blames the sys­tem.

“The pro­fes­sion­als do the best with what they have but they don’t have enough.”

He said there are 30-, 60- and 90-day ad­dic­tion pro­grams avail­able in the Yukon at no cos,t with 50 pro­fes­sional staff in the build­ing.

“It cost them $8 mil­lion to build this fa­cil­ity. I don’t know what their yearly bud­get is but

it would be a drop in the hat to save our kids in Cape Bre­ton.”

Buddy Pen­ney, a trans­port truck driver for Tom Macdon­ald Truck­ing, was at a truck stop in New Brunswick Sun­day when he re­ceived the phone call about his nephew Evan’s death.

“I was shocked, dev­as­tated.” Pen­ney said friend John Bis­son posted a mes­sage on Face­book urg­ing the com­mu­nity to get to­gether to fight for help for the drug prob­lem in the com­mu­nity. He jumped aboard.

“I know 15 young peo­ple who died the past two years from

drugs,” he said.

As a re­sult the A Town That Cares group has been formed and is hold­ing a town hall meet­ing May 24. Pen­ney said a doc­tor and a re­tired nurse are on the com­mit­tee.

“I don’t want to see any more par­ents have to go through what Michael is go­ing through.”

Pen­ney said one thing ev­ery­one knew about Evan was what a nice kid he was. Evan had worked as a labourer in Ed­mon­ton and when in Cape Bre­ton en­joyed play­ing fast­ball with his team, the Scotch­town Raiders.

“Even when he was in the drugs his ways of be­ing help­ful and kind never changed,” he said.

“He had so many friends; that fu­neral home is go­ing to be jammed.”

John Bis­son said Evan was his son Jeremy’s best friend.

“It was shock,” he said. “We just didn’t want to be­lieve it could have hap­pened. We con­sid­ered him part of our ex­tended fam­ily.”

Bis­son posted the mes­sage on Face­book urg­ing the com­mu­nity to come to­gether to fight drug abuse, lead­ing to the

for­ma­tion of the group.

He said there is noth­ing here but a seven- to 10-day pro­gram.

“t’s like putting a Band-Aid on an open wound. We’ll fight for a treat­ment cen­tre tooth and nail.”

Bis­son said he knows the is­sues first-hand. He had his son Jeremy in the treat­ment pro­gram in Cape Bre­ton and tried for other help but found wait­ing pe­ri­ods months long to be of any use. In Au­gust 2016 he got his son into the To­gether We Can treat­ment cen­tre in Van­cou­ver.

He said it was a 90-day pro­gram that they had to pay for but a sec­ond stage is a year long and paid by gov­ern­ment.

He said the pro­gram is longterm sup­port and it’s work­ing, and is ex­actly what’s needed here.

“I feel if we hadn’t got­ten him out there we had weeks left with him. That’s how bad it was.”

SHARON MONT­GOMERY-DUPE/CAPE BRE­TON POST

Michael Web­ber of River Ryan holds a col­lage of pho­tos of his son Evan, 29, shown with fam­ily and friends. The col­lage was put to­gether for his fu­neral which is be­ing held to­day. Michael said his son needed help that he couldn’t get and died of a drug over­dose on Satur­day. He said the prob­lem isn’t with pro­fes­sion­als in the health-care sys­tem as they work hard with what they have but rather with the sys­tem in Cape Bre­ton it­self.

Web­ber

SHARON MONT­GOMERY-DUPE/CAPE BRE­TON POST

Michael Web­ber, cen­tre, of River Ryan is com­forted by friends John Bis­son, left, and Buddy Pen­ney, while pre­par­ing for the fu­neral of his son Evan, 22, a mar­ried fa­ther of two, who died of a drug over­dose on Satur­day. Bis­son and Pen­ney have started a group called A town That Cares and are ral­ly­ing the com­mu­nity to come to­gether on May 24 to start the fight for help for those with men­tal health and drug ad­dic­tion is­sues.

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