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

View Royal fire chief calls for realistic solutions to ‘mess’ at Thetis Lake

Emergency crews harassed while extinguishing brush fire, rescuing drunk 15-year-old during long weekend calls

Greater Victoria woman goes on gratitude mission to thank first responders

Jen Klein fainted while driving and crashed on Pat Bay Highway in 2019

Non-venomous ball python missing in Vic West

Snake was reported missing to Victoria police Tuesday morning

Multiple Victoria officers injured during violent incidents, including mental health calls over long weekend

Police deploy pepper spray, conducted energy weapon while arresting suspect

B.C. records 146 new COVID-19 cases through long weekend

More that 28 people tested positive for the virus each day since Friday

COVID-19 vaccine efforts provide hope but no silver bullet to stop pandemic: Tam

There are more than two dozen vaccines for COVID-19 in clinical trials around the world

Two people die in propane heated outdoor shower near Princeton

Couple was attending a long weekend gathering

Study shines light on what makes LGBTQ+ youth feel safe in a community

The study goes beyond looking at school or family supports

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

B.C. to allow customers to buy cannabis online for in-store pickup at private shops

Age verification will still be required inside the store

30% of British Columbians would ‘wait and see’ before taking COVID vaccine: poll

Some are concerned about side effects, while others don’t think the virus is a big deal

Don’t leave your hand sanitizer in the sun and other tips to stay COVID safe this summer

Being mindful of staying outside and keeping hand sanitizer, sunscreen out of the sun recommended

Most Read