The high-profile case of a Nova Scotia doctor being charged with drug trafficking motivated several to hold a demonstration outside Bridgewater Provincial Court Wednesday.
The powerful demonstration was attended by members of the group Get Prescription Drugs Off The Street or GPDOTS.
“I’m here to bring awareness to the dangers of prescription drugs,” said Karen Belliveau. “And in memory of my son.”
Belliveau lost her son, Josh Graves, to a fatal combination of alcohol and prescription drugs in 2011.
She is one of many people who have lost a loved one to an accidental overdose in the last few years across Nova Scotia.
The group chose to rally outside the courthouse this week on the same day that Dr. Sarah Jones was scheduled to appear in court. Jones is accused of drug trafficking, after allegedly prescribing 50,000 oxycodine pills to one patient, who never received them.
Jones didn’t appear in court herself on Wednesday, instead her lawyer to appear on her behalf. The case was adjourned until June 8, to allow lawyers more time to access a large volume of disclosure.
“All criminal allegations are serious, but what I hope people will remember is that the presumption of innocence is in place, remains in place and I think is important for people to remember that,” said Stan MacDonald, lawyer for Dr. Jones said.
Although fatalities related to prescription drugs have slowed down recently, advocates say overprescribing is still a major problem in the province.
“This case as an example, the pills are still being trafficked as a commodity on the street, its still we feel at epidemic levels in the province and charges are still being laid,” said Rob Mulloy, director of GPDOTS.
Leslie Tilley says she got involved with GPDOTS after seeing someone take their own life after suffering for years with drug issues.
“I personally have been to unfortunately since 2005 at least 25 funerals,” Tilley told Global News.
“The group is amazing, the dedication. I will say, not one of us want to be a part of it, but we have to be. We have to be the voices of the people who have lost their lives.”
Trine-Lise Good was also at the rally. She has been an outspoken about the need for people to understand the dangers of prescription drugs since losing her 21-year-old son, Ryan, to a combination of cocaine and dilaudid in 2012.
“Once I found out my son, Ryan, had taken those kind of drugs, he didn’t do it alone, so other people were doing it and come to find out we’re losing people almost daily,” said Good.
“For me, now, I will always grieve. The grief and the pain of losing someone will never go away but it gives you something to work towards, to help other people.”
The Nova Scotia Health Department confirms they have recently engaged an external reviewer and will be starting a review soon of the province’s Prescription Monitoring Program, which came under scrutiny when the allegations against Jones came to light earlier this year.