Amendments announced (by government) today will allow us to further this work, providing acute care for adolescents with serious substance use challenges at a time when they are most vulnerable
Government has introduced amendments to the Mental Health Act to improve the care and safety of youth under the age of 19 who are experiencing severe problematic substance use by providing short-term involuntary emergency stabilization care following an overdose.
Based on the expert advice of the BC Children’s Hospital and other renowned child and youth advocates, the changes will enable hospitals to keep youth safe immediately following an overdose. The proposed changes are designed to prioritize the best interest of youth and facilitate better connections to voluntary culturally safe care.
According to Dr.
Jana Davidson, chief medical officer, BC Children’s Hospital and BC Women’s
Hospital + Health Centre, “Ensuring cultural safety and high-quality
care for young people following life-threatening overdose/poisoning with
substances needs to be a priority”.
“... amendments announced today will allow us to further this work, providing acute care for adolescents with serious substance use challenges at a time when they are most vulnerable and ensuring they are connected with community-based services so they can continue to receive support closer to home.”
Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions also commented, stating, “Experts are telling us this emergency measure is vital to ensure the immediate safety of young people in crisis. We are taking that advice and we are enabling hospitals to extend the care they provide to help youth stabilize and leave the hospital with a clear plan to access voluntary services and supports in the community.”
Youth living with severe problematic substance use who are admitted to a hospital following a life-threatening overdose can be admitted for stabilization care for up to 48 hours or until their decision-making capacity is restored, for a maximum of seven days. This short-term emergency care will be provided at hospitals throughout the province where there is an existing designated psychiatric unit or observation unit.
According to Doctor Tom Warshawski (Medical Director for Child and Youth) with the Interior Health Authority, “As many as 10% of adults who have a non-fatal opioid overdose die within one year.
He continued, “With this
legislation, clinicians have the legal tool, with safeguards, to help
a youth take a pause in their drug use in order to have their medical and
mental health needs addressed, reconnect with supports and possibly enter into
treatment or, at the very least, be equipped to use drugs safely until such
time as they are able to take positive steps toward recovery.”
The proposed changes to the Mental Health Act will support health-care providers and hospitals to provide medically necessary health care and observation for a youth to recover from an overdose, regain their decision-making capacity and create opportunities to engage with supports and services to treat the problematic substance use.
Following the period of stabilization care, youth will be connected to supports and services in the community.