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

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

Benjamin Cashion, left, the first baby born at Shuswap Lake General Hospital in 2021, is already taking to his older brother Liam. (Submitted)
Newcomers to Shuswap welcome Salmon Arm hospital’s first baby of 2021

The Cashion family’s newest son Benjamin was born on Jan. 8.

A map released by the BCCDC on Jan. 15 shows the number of new COVID-19 cases reported for each local health area between Jan. 3 and 9. (BCCDC Image)
Salmon Arm and Vernon see increase in new COVID cases, curve flattening elsewhere

The rate of new cases is levelling off in Kelowna, Penticton and Revelstoke.

(Photo: Pixabay)
Enderby chamber proposes new rural e-business training program

The program would help rural-area businesses expand using online tools and insights

Signs in Homer, Alaska, offer inspiration during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Michael Armstrong-Homer News)
COLUMN: COVID-19 pandemic hits home

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

With bridge construction well underway on the project to replace the Solsqua-Sicamous bridge. Motorists should expect delays of up to half an hour. (Jim Elliot/Eagle Valley News)
Pedestrian path would connect Solsqua-Sicamous bridge to community

District of Sicamous staff say bridge replacement project on tight schedule

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

The organizer of a Kelowna protest against COVID-19 restrictions was fined by the RCMP for the third time Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19: Organizer of Kelowna anti-restriction protest ticketed for third time

The individual’s latest ticket for $2,300 was handed out by RCMP at an anti-lockdown rally Saturday

Mount Boucherie Secondary School is one of three Kelowna schools with confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to an update from the school district Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 confirmed at 3 Kelowna schools

Interior Health has confirmed exposures at Mount Boucherie, Springvalley and South Rutland schools

Half of the most expensive homes are on 2080 Mackenzie Crt, which is across the street from Revelstoke Mountain Resort. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
The 10 most valuable homes in Revelstoke for 2020

Combined, the properties are worth more than $35M

Lake Country native Evan-Riley Brown is in the cast for the new film Journey To Royal: A WW II Rescue Mission to be released on video on demand and streaming services on Feb. 2. (Contributed)
Okanagan actor lands role in WW II movie

Evan-Riley Brown, from Lake Country, cast in production labelled as hybrid of a feature film and documentary called Journey To Royal: a WW II Rescue Mission.

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Most Read