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‘Justice for Draeyden’: Suspected OD death of North Okanagan teen prompts calls for change

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North Okanagan teen’s suspected overdose prompts call for change – Apr 21, 2022

On a Monday night in early April, a police officer came to Donna Gregersen’s home and told her that her 15-year-old son Draeyden was dead.

Gregersen believes her son’s cause of death was drug-related, although that has yet to be officially confirmed.

The North Okanagan woman is now speaking out about her son’s story in the hopes of preventing other tragedies.

Read more: Families, advocates divided on ‘forced’ care for youth struggling with drug addiction

“He was loving, super loving, caring, loved his family, loved his brother. He would always play outside the lines. He literally just had no fear,” said Gregersen.

“My 9-year-old wants to turn his brother’s death into a positive and help other families to not go through what we are going through.”

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Gregersen is open about the struggles she faced with Draeyden after the family suffered a string of deaths three years ago which impacted the boy’s mental health.

Ultimately, efforts to help Draeyden were not successful. Gregersen said she often felt blamed and not listened to as she worked to help her son.

Read more: Safer drug supply needed to prevent illicit drug deaths, says new B.C. coroner’s report

According to Gregersen, the Ministry of Children and Family Development was even involved in Draeyden’s case.

“My son was a runner and he wouldn’t stay in any of the supports they did offer like a safe house. They tried to put him in the Mara House in Vernon and he would run,” Gregersen said.

According to Gregersen, Draeyden eventually ended up staying at an alleged drug house.

She was so concerned she alerted various officials.

Read more: ‘It could be anybody’s child’: Christmas tree at KGH draws attention to opioid crisis

“The social worker responded to me later on that day on March 7 and told me that she was aware of where Draeyden was…and that she was working on coming up with a plan to get him somewhere safe,” Gregersen said.

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One of the entities Gregersen reached out to about her concerns regarding the alleged drug house was Splatsin First Nation.

The band said it asked the police to increase the RCMP presence in the area, but officers never found the boy at the alleged drug house.

Less than a month later, Draeyden was dead.

Read more: ‘You were crying for help’: B.C. mom’s anguish after daughter, 12, died of suspected drug overdose

Police confirmed they were called to an Enderby area residence where a 15-year-old was declared deceased on April 4.

“I just want more supports. I would like the communities to come together. Our world is evolving unlike how it was ever in the past. It is not as safe but our systems are staying the same,” Gregersen said.

If the teen’s death is confirmed to be a drug poisoning, he will join a tragic list of lives lost to overdose in the Enderby area.

Eight people died last year, giving the small community one of the highest drug death rates in the province.

Family friend Nichole Fleming said more resources from the government are needed. She would also like to see drug houses shut down and more police.

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Read more: Penticton, B.C. organizations mark six years since overdose public health declaration

“Something needs to change. A 15-year-old boy’s death is not acceptable,” Fleming said.

After her son fell through the cracks, Gregersen is hoping to see a change to prevent more lives from senselessly being lost.

Police said they do not suspect criminality in Draeyden’s death. However, Gregersen does not agree with that assessment.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development said “it cannot comment publicly or confirm involvement with any individual or family due to confidentiality.”

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