Elliot Eurchuk in an undated family photo. (The Canadian Press)

Mom of teen who fatally overdosed says B.C. needs treatment beds, not just involuntary holds

Rachel Staples’s 15-year-old son Elliot Eurchuk died in April 2018

The mother of a teen who fatally overdosed says legislation in British Columbia that would allow youth to be involuntarily hospitalized for up to a week must be backed up with more residential treatment beds.

Rachel Staples, whose 15-year-old son Elliot Eurchuk died in April 2018, said short-term emergency care meant to stabilize youth is just a start in addressing the overdose crisis among young people.

“They don’t have the facilities to accommodate what’s going on in our province,” she said Tuesday, adding wait times could be as long as four months.

“A week in a hospital just makes a kid angry. Say they do decide ‘Yeah, I want out of this nightmare.’ Then what? They need residential treatment where they can be monitored.”

READ MORE: B.C. to impose ‘stabilization care’ for youths after overdose

The proposed change in the Mental Health Act would allow youth under 19 to be kept in hospital for 48 hours to start in order to stabilize their condition.

Youth would be discharged when they are able to make decisions for themselves as part of a short-term emergency care plan at B.C. hospitals.

The proposed changes are aimed at allowing youth to be connected to supports and services in the community after they are discharged.

“They need residential treatment where you can put a child up to a month, in my opinion, so they can actually come down from that high and address what they’re doing to themselves,” said Staples, whose son was found dead in his bedroom.

He’d already overdosed on illicit substances in hospital where he was undergoing treatment for a blood infection that is common to intravenous drug users.

VIDEO: Oak Bay mom describes finding son ‘gone’ on first day of inquest into overdose death

Youth, like adults, have been released from hospital after being given the overdose-reversing medication naloxone, without much information provided to their parents based on the youth’s wishes.

Dr. Tom Warshawski, medical director for child and youth for the Interior Health Authority, said the legislation recognizes the profound vulnerability of youth.

He said clinicians would have a legal tool to help a youth take a pause in their drug use in order to have their medical and mental health needs addressed.

But Warshawski, who testified at an inquest last year addressing issues related to Eurchuk’s death, also said residential treatment beds for youth are key to addressing addiction that may involve mental health issues.

Government-funded private beds are scattered around the province but there is no centralized intake service, meaning clinicians must call multiple facilities to learn about wait lists.

“In this way the provider, the family, enters into a maze and also the government has no idea how many beds they have and what their need is,” Warshawski said.

“This situation is indefensible,” he said, adding he has spoken with Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy, who agreed the province has to take action.

Other provinces, including Alberta, have provisions for involuntary treatment of addiction, he said, and B.C. must now lead the way on youth treatment considering its high number of overdose fatalities.

Darcy said in an interview the change would help ensure the immediate safety of young people in crisis.

READ MORE: Coroner emphasizes jury’s recommendations in Oak Bay teen’s overdose death

The discharge plan would involve youth who may already have been introduced to health professionals that would be supporting them, she said.

The new legislation would also allow parents or guardians to have access to personal information about the youth’s condition while they’re in stabilization care, she said.

“That, I think, provides a lot greater clarity for parents and for physicians,” Darcy said.

The Mental Health and Addictions Ministry said B.C. has 104 beds for youth who use substances.

Darcy said 20 more beds are expected to open in Chilliwack.

The province’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said in a statement it is important that work being done to reduce the fear and stigma related to substance use is not undermined by the legislation.

“Without an established evidence-based, accessible system of substance-use treatment services, I am concerned there is the potential for serious unintended consequences as a result of these legislative amendments, including the potential for an increase in fatalities,” Lapointe said.

— By Camille Bains in Vancouver

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

B.C. overdosesoverdose

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Transport truck driver ticketed after rear-ending semi, closing Highway 1 in Shuswap

Truck catches fire, Chase RCMP ticket man for following too closely

Automated phone scam targets Shuswap residents

Scammers may be spoofing a local number and claiming they are with the CRA

Okanagan and Shuswap MPs want federal funds to help stop invasive species

Concerns raised that spending favours Eastern Canada.

Homeowners arrive in North Shuswap to find thieves busy breaking in

Chase RCMP request assistance from public in tracking down suspects

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

COVID-19 cases identified in Kelowna, after public gatherings

Those who were downtown or at the waterfront from June 25 to July 6 maybe have been exposed to COVID-19.

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Summerland Blossom Youth Ambassador Program to hold coronation

Event will be held by video as a result of COVID-19 precautions

Vernon shutterbugs capture rainbow

A rain event July 9 made way for a glorious sight

Pooch abandoned at Penticton doggy daycare suffered from oral disease

A fundraiser for Okie held by the BC SPCA surpassed its goal of $1,700

Couple shaken up after homophobic encounter at Kelowna mall

‘We’re not in the States; we’re not in some little hick town; we’re in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. And it still happens’

Summerland to allow in-person attendance at July 13 council meetings

Two meetings will be held at Summerland Arena Banquet Room to accommodate public

Most Read