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

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Slow melt at high elevations near Revelstoke this spring

At one location on Mt. Fidelity there is double the usual snowpack for early July

Summerland Ornamental Gardens remain closed

Staff and volunteers continue to weed and maintain plants

Canada’s deficit result of investing in Canadians: Minister of Middle-Class Prosperity

Minister Mona Fortier said the government is working on the next steps as the economy restarts

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Okanagan sisters-in-law sleep out successful

Kiley Routley and Heidi Routley raise nearly $2,400 and awareness for youth homelessness

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

COVID-19: Homeless to be relocated from temporary Okanagan shelter

Homeless shelters in Vernon have been combined into one site at the curling rink since April

Dozens of fish die at popular lake near Chase

A few natural phenomena are possible causes for their deaths.

Most Read