A father’s pain
Community mourns as devastated dad prepares for his son’s funeral
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.”
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.
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.