Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

THE PAIN ENDURES – Jennifer Mitchell is seen last Wednesday at a vigil outside the shelter for the homeless in Whitehorse after two women died there.

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Photo by Photo Submitted

Mitchell's daughter Kristen died of a drug overdose at the age of just 17.

Mom refuses to passively accept daughter’s death

Jennifer Mitchell is living a nightmare.

By Tim Giilck on January 26, 2022

Jennifer Mitchell is living a nightmare.

Three years ago next month, her daughter Kristen lost her life to a drug overdose in Vancouver. She had just barely turned 17.

Why was she in Vancouver?

While Kristen had struggled with drugs for about a year, Mitchell told the Star Monday afternoon, she alleges a man lured her daughter to the city hoping to ensnarl her in the sex trade.

While it’s not an unusual story, it’s a poignant one.

What makes it worse for Mitchell is that her nephew’s was one of three drug-related deaths that prompted the Carcross-Tagish First Nation to declare a state of emergency nearly two weeks ago.

Mitchell said she also knew the two young women from Old Crow who were found deceased at the shelter for the homeless in Whitehorse last week.

The situation has left her with some understandable psychological scars, including anxiety attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder. Death on the streets, it seems, is all around her.

However, it’s also left her with a burning, driven desire to step up and not be silent anymore.

That’s why she chose to talk to the Star following the death of yet another young woman in Whitehorse, with street drugs linked to that fatality as well.

Kristen, she said, began having an on-and-off problem with drugs when she was 16, about a year before her death.

The passing of a close friend triggered the problem, Mitchell said.

Kristen struggled to deal with the death, and leapt into using cocaine, bypassing more typical drugs such as marijuana as she struggled for relief from her grief.

The family, with Mitchell leading the way, tried desperately to find assistance to deal with what became a growing problem.

Mitchell said she contacted various community and government resources for the immediate assistance she felt her daughter needed – without any luck.

Everyone she contacted, Mitchell said, wanted more talking, more consultations, more paperwork and most of all – more waiting.

“There was just no immediate support for her,” Mitchell said.

The desperate search for assistance continued with no results, she added. In the meantime, she feared Kristen’s situation would worsen – and it did.

“She was coaxed to Vancouver by a man who wanted to get her into the sex trade,” Mitchell said sadly.

Kristen’s death is still under investigation, she said. Due to that, she was reluctant to talk about the details.

Fentanyl was involved, Mitchell said, and the photos taken at the scene left her with night terrors – along with her other maladies.

She was determined, though, not to passively accept Kristen’s death.

“For a little while I did give up,” she said. “But now I’m prepared to speak out.”

Her nephew passed away more than a week ago at the Chilkoot Inn, from an overdose.

“Its very tragic,” she said. “He was an ongoing user.”

Unlike Kristen, he had a more extensive history with drug abuse.

Originally from Carcross, he became involved in a treatment program that provided a room at the inn.

Mitchell said the program basically isolated him from his family and friends in Carcross, and he wasn’t at the Chilkoot long before he bought some street drugs.

He holed up in his room by himself, she said, and that’s how he died – alone.

“We have to help people like him before it’s too late,” she said. “We need more awareness, more help for the parents and families, more help for the people addicted.”

While she agrees authorities such as the police should make an effort to chase down and deal with the dealers, she ultimately thinks that’s a bit of a misguided effort.

“There’s always another two or three (dealers) waiting in line,” Mitchell said.

Her friend, Aruna Mangal, also participated in the interview.

She said she has a background in addictions counselling, and is very interested in setting up a private treatment program.

She knew both Mitchell’s daughter and nephew, and was also grappling with how to come to terms with their loss.

The major stumbling block she has found in setting up an alternative program is that she can’t figure out how to access government funding – which she says is supposed to be available.

Mangal is looking for someone to help out with that, and is also interested in talking to someone who might have a building and property that she might be able to use for her program.

“We need a wrap-around model, an approach that deals with generational trauma, long-term relationships,” she said.

“We have an opportunity to change our approach to social services. It’s totally feasible to take a community-based approach.”

“All we’re trying to do is save lives.”

Comments (15)

Up 5 Down 10

Where is Alcohol and Drug Services? on Jan 30, 2022 at 5:13 am

Good for Jennifer Mitchell speaking out having courage through what must be unimaginable pain. Do we not have services here that should be actively addressing this crisis ? What happened to Alcohol and Drug Services ? Is this not the job of this government funded service to have programs from prevention to intervention ? They repackaged or rebranded that “service” into Mental Health and Wellness - how about that government funded program doing their job and address this crisis ?
What are tax dollars paying for if there is no help or services addressing what seems to be a situation that has reached a crisis point. Instead of repackaging services that clearly do nothing and don’t work how about Health and Social Services actually do something that will have a meaningful impact and not leave mothers grieving for children.
Alcohol and Drug services or whatever you are calling yourselves these days - Do something, anything be part of the solution don’t sit in your offices waiting for people to come to you and then turning them away because they are not “fixable”. Places like blood ties are far more effective and proactive than our “government run service”. Shut that joke of a program down and redirect the funds to Blood ties and First Nations who will actually make a difference and address the problem.

Up 3 Down 8

drum on Jan 29, 2022 at 3:22 pm

If the additives are coming from China (killing people) can I have a moment to have a panic attack - maybe it is a move to take over Canada.

Up 8 Down 6

Darwin Getsitt on Jan 29, 2022 at 11:17 am

To: Sterling Mason on Jan 28, 2022 at 8:50 pm

“Who cares if it is user choice in some cases - do you have interest to help people if they want to change? Treatment includes accountability, but it is not based solely on blame, weak character, etc. Only an idiot would argue that. You live in a cold world, man.”

You are the one who is arguing your own inference that my version of accountability involves some implication of weakness in character. This is the dance of wannabe apologists - They argue from a place of self - Arrogance and righteous moralizing are symptoms of an apoptotic nihilism.

When people have no counter to an actual truth they creatively deflect through straw-man representations to tickle the fancies of the intellectually incapable… Puffing their chests out, knocking over the game pieces and crying it out…

Is not a cold world it’s not a fantasy world, it is a real world - There are consequences for your choices - Choose well. When people say they do not have choice they are embracing a deterministic fatalism - Why bother trying?

You people are dangerous…

Up 4 Down 7

Sterling Mason on Jan 28, 2022 at 8:50 pm

@ Darwin Getsitt: " . . . many top-ranked scientists . . ." LOL - who like the Professor on Gilligan's Island. Man, these comments have good entertainment value. Who cares if it is user choice in some cases - do you have interest to help people if they want to change? Treatment includes accountability, but it is not based solely on blame, weak character, etc. Only an idiot would argue that. You live in a cold world, man.

Up 15 Down 3

Teresa on Jan 28, 2022 at 10:31 am

Overdose is a symptom not only of drug addiction but usually of soul searing pain. Then the people who fall into physical pain and end up using to control of it then get hooked and OD at some point.

Up 13 Down 12

Darwin Getsitt on Jan 28, 2022 at 10:26 am

Dear Jack - It appears that you know Jack-Shyt about this topic. Many top-ranked scientists without a product, program, or idea to sell have all arrived, independently, at the same conclusion: Drug use is choice.

After several longitudinal studies scientists did not find any evidence of an association between “twisted arms”, “guns pointed at heads”, or other forms of more covert and subtle pressures.

After controlling for more subtle forms of influence such as the “fear of missing “peer pressure”, and the need to fit in every scientist concluded that “user choice” was the primary mechanism through which alcoholism and the subsequent behaviours after alcohol consumption that follow, are triggered,

For years alcoholism and drug addiction were thought to arise from some diseased pathology depriving the afflicted of an ability to choose not to consume substances.
Now we know that choice is not only possible but it is also essential because it emphasizes personal accountability for one’s life - That is your cure - Accountability, it can fix government and heal disease!

Get accountable today, get sober tomorrow!

Up 27 Down 2

Bob on Jan 28, 2022 at 9:26 am

If the governments were really serious about overdose deaths, they would start passing laws that would allow the purveyors of killer drugs like fentanyl to be charged with murder, accessory to murder, & at minimum the most serious degree of manslaughter. I'd suspect that it wouldn't be long before we saw a serious drop in overdose deaths.

Up 6 Down 16

bonanzajoe on Jan 27, 2022 at 4:20 pm

Jack Malone, Like the old Colonel said "You can't handle the truth".

Up 7 Down 19

Josey Wales on Jan 27, 2022 at 3:27 pm

Gee...Jack a wee bit hyperbolic eh? Not everyday either, Mr. Virtue.
Guess this part slipped by ya...” for any of these unfortunate premature deaths. ”


Up 31 Down 15

Jack Malone on Jan 27, 2022 at 12:50 pm

@ Josey. Everyday you post self-indulgent garbage to stir the pot and create outrage. I get it - you seek attention. Obviously I don't agree with your views, but it takes a special kind of heartlessness and lack of empathy, compassion or love to throw pain and arrogance into the face of the grieving. Why bother. You are pathetic. You keep walking and whistling to yourself - without giving two hoots about anyone else or taking the time to understand their circumstances. There are a million stories as to why people struggle with drugs; not many are about partying too much: coping, self-medicating, medical treatment legacy, etc. Those aren't excuses, that's reality - these people need a hand up before they end up overdosed.

Up 35 Down 6

Sarah Davison on Jan 27, 2022 at 7:54 am

Do not do drugs. ANY type of drugs. Fentanyl is in everything and people are overdosing. It's flooding into the country across the southern US border, out of China, and the situation out of control everywhere, even here. BC had record overdoses last year, a 25 percent rise over 2020. 84 percent of overdoses involved fentanyl. 14 percent involved EXTREME amounts of fentanyl. You need only a tiny, tiny amount of fentanyl to overdose, and it's everything, including coke. If you do coke or any kind of drugs, stop immediately. People do not know this, and they need to know it to protect themselves. This is the REAL epidemic.

Up 35 Down 5

Juniper Jackson on Jan 26, 2022 at 6:41 pm

I am so terribly sorry.. for the Mothers' who are living every Mother's worst nightmare.. I'm just so sorry..

Up 29 Down 11

bonanzajoe on Jan 26, 2022 at 3:51 pm

I believe the best counseling comes from the home.

Up 24 Down 40

Josey Wales on Jan 26, 2022 at 3:36 pm

Hmm...I won’t passively sit and assume responsibility nor have it projected... for any of these unfortunate premature deaths.
Nor will I sit passively and watch NGOS and other folks turn this place into a further shitehole via free drugs, shoot up drive throughs, deplorable public behaviour.

SJW’s, the PC Crusader brigade...aaaattack, a dissenter to deviants.
Personal responsibility...still a concept or is that “conversion therapy “?
OJW PSA...Tired of the recent drownings, scared you may drown next?
Then stay outta the water, life jackets just make it easier to recover you...not assured survival.
Safe sites are just life jackets for those determined to drown.

Up 74 Down 18

Shae-Lynn B on Jan 26, 2022 at 2:41 pm

Jennifer Mitchell, you are such a strong woman to be able to start speaking out. There is a group called “Mom’s Stop The Harm”, they are made up of family members who have also lost ones to substance use. They were interested in having a Yukon representative to advocate. Sending healing prayers your way ❤️

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