‘I’m afraid I’m going to be next’

Family who has already lost daughter in turmoil over son’s addictions

Barb Sweet bsweet@thetelegram.com
Published on May 7, 2012
— Ryan Cleary

As if grieving over Chrissy Pearce’s death wasn’t enough anguish, a St. John’s family  has been pleading for help for her drug-addicted brother.

The Weekend Telegram told the story of Chrissy Pearce’s

April 21 death at age 33, the day after she checked herself out of the Recovery Centre detox facility in Pleasantville, St. John’s. Her boyfriend Dean Cantwell said she had been begging to get in the facility for a week, but apparently there were no women’s beds available.

She died on her parents’ property while they were out of the country on holiday. Her brother, Chad Pearce, was present when she died.

No other options

The fight to get Chrissy Pearce help for her severe alcoholism was dramatic. There was no long-term program or option offered to go out of the province for intensive treatment, according to Cantwell.

The family found itself in the same situation trying to get help for her brother, including a plea to get him back on the methadone drug therapy program, fearing he’ll also die as a result of his addiction.

“I’m afraid I am going to be next,” the 28-year-old said, speaking in a low voice at his parent’s dining room table late last week.

Sunday, St. John’s South-Mount Pearl NDP MP Ryan Cleary called for a review of Chrissy Pearce’s death and what happened at the Recovery Centre, as well as the effectiveness of that facility and whether it has enough resources.

Eastern Health would not say last week whether or not it is reviewing the death. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has been investigating the death, as it does routinely with certain sudden deaths. The family is awaiting toxicology reports.

Cleary, whose office tried to get help for both Chrissy Pearce and now her brother, noted there are 144 people on the methadone program — which equates to a wait of up to two years.

That’s much too long a wait for people with addictions, Cleary said, adding that program should also be reviewed.

And he extended his call for a review to the goals and resources of all addiction services.

Chad Pearce wouldn’t talk about his sister’s death and what happened.

“I didn’t want to quit the drugs at all. I basically told everybody ‘F--- off, I am not quitting drugs now. But as the week went on I seen how much everybody was hurting,” Pearce said.

He said he was prescribed Percocet after knee surgery when he had a snowboarding accident at age 17. When the Percocets didn’t work, he said he started selling them to trade for more powerful painkillers, eventually injecting himself with opiates such as OxyContin and other drugs.

Now Pearce has a carpentry trade he can’t work at and five kids he no longer has a relationship with.

“When all the judging is done, At the end of the day, there are still a lot of good people out there now addicted and sick. When they started, they didn’t start out saying ‘I can’t wait to get addicted so my life can get completely f---ed up,’ “ said his father, Bill Pearce.

Late last week, Pearce was trying to detox himself cold turkey off  drugs.

“You live in hell. You don’t know when he is going to get up and go through the door and do something illegal to get the money or borrow the money and we are going to be right back at Square 1,” Bill Pearce said.

The family doesn’t trust the Recovery Centre.

“My daughter walked out of there and died the next day. Why would I put him in detox?” asked Bill Pearce.

“If you go in detox you should have to sign a piece of paper when you are going in and if you climb the walls when you are in there, you should not be allowed out until you are detoxed. If that takes seven days or seven weeks, that’s the way it should be.”

With the prosperity of the province’s economy and the warnings that would bring drug and crime problems, Cleary wonders if the province is prepared for it.

“Chad needs help. Chrissy didn’t get the help,” Cleary said.

The MP’s office appealed to the provincial government for help for the siblings, and still there’s no progress, he said

“It’s obvious the problems are not being addressed,” he said.

“They are addicts. But they are people.”

There are two general practitioners who work with Eastern Health’s Opiod Treatment Centre in St. John’s part time. There are also a couple of private practice physicians who offer methadone services out of their offices. Eastern Health is trying to recruit more doctors to offer the treatment.

Pearce claims his doctor didn’t give  him enough methadone before going on vacation last year, and he fell back into drugs and was not allowed back on the program, despite what he insists was more than two years of recovery.

Bill Pearce said his son almost died during Christmas. Bill Pearce approached the doctor to readmit his son to the methadone program. The doctor told him to come back in the New Year and ask again. After Chrissy Pearce died, the answer was still no, Bill Pearce said. The only chance he was offered was to get another doctor to consider Pearce, which would be months out due to the doctor’s schedule.

Pearce also has a court date May 10.

“This is not about slinging mud,” Bill Pearce said.

“This is about where do we go from here. The crime that is associated with getting your fix, being able to buy methadone off the street, all the Oxys still floating around. There are situations where I have actually funded the habit. Parents shouldn’t be having to do that.”

But he said he was told by one physician’s staff other parents are doing the same thing, and has only given his son small amounts of money to keep him from getting in trouble.

Bill Pearce also said he has a niece in British Columbia who has been on and off methadone  and there are no waits.

Access to services should be equal across the country, he said.

“I pay my taxes here and there’s been no help,” Bill Pearce said.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall told The Telegram wait times vary in B.C., depending on a geographic area’s access to services, but there are places where there are no waits.

He also said the old wisdom among addictions experts was that when addicts falter while on metahdone, it’s a strike out. But now slips are more apt to be acknowledged as a sign of stresses in the addict’s life, or they need a change in dosage.

Friday, the family got good news that Chad Pearce has a clean bill of health, no diseases or organ damage from his addiction.

“To me that was a gift,” his father said.

But the situation remains desperate in the wake of Chrissy Pearce’s death.

“All it’s going to take is for him to sit down some night and start feeling all shitty about what happened that day and it starts to haunt him. The next thing you know he’s looking for something to numb the pain. The next thing you know he’s planted and he got his wish,” Bill Pearce said.

“If I could go in (the cemetery) now and pick her up and stand her up and say ‘Go enjoy life’ and I’ll get in that f---ing grave, I would do it. I wouldn’t even think twice. I would just go do it for two reasons No. 1, she was so young. No. 2,  I’d have f---ing peace. People got to start helping here. This can’t go on.”

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