Debate in the B.C. Legislature on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 between MLA Jane Thornthwaite (Liberal, North Vancouver-Seymour) and Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, on the overdose death of Oak Bay teen Elliot Eurchuk last Friday.
J. Thornthwaite: My questions are for the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. Last year there were 23 illicit drug overdose deaths amongst children aged 10 to 18. There have been a further three deaths so far this year. The Safe Care Act was introduced this February. Rather than yet another review, why not bring this bill forward for debate today?
Hon. J. Darcy: Thank you to the member for her question. The member may know that as soon as we heard of the death of Elliot from Oak Bay, a 16-year-old student, my office reached out to his family. I met with the parents just today, just an hour ago.
I want to begin by acknowledging their pain and their suffering and the heartbreak. As a parent — or anyone in this Legislature — I don’t think we can imagine anything more devastating than the loss of a child. I want to really admire their courage in speaking out in order to try and help prevent tragedies in the future.
Nothing is more important to this government, nothing is more important to our ministry, than the safety of our kids. That is why our ministry was created. It is why a central part of my mandate is to develop a plan for child and youth mental health, which includes addressing addictions and overdoses amongst our young people. As part of developing that plan, we will be looking at all of the potential pieces of legislation and all of the policies that potentially affect this issue.
We will also be listening to the health professionals and the experts on the front line. Island Health is conducting a review of any interaction that Elliot or his family had with the health care system to see if they have recommendations for changes. The coroner’s report will be making a recommendation.
We are listening very carefully to families. We’ll be reviewing all of the policies and all of the actions, and we will be acting in order to ensure that children are safe.
Mr. Speaker: North Vancouver–Seymour on a supplemental.
J. Thornthwaite: Brenda Doherty said: “My daughter was released prematurely from the hospital and overdosed a day and a half later. If there had been legislation like the Safe Care Act in place, her death could have been avoided.”
Again my question is to the minister: in the interest of helping children with substance use issues, will the minister bring the private member’s bill entitled the Safe Care Act, where all of the work has already been done, to the floor for debate today?
Hon. J. Darcy: Thank you again to the member for her question. As the member also knows, I met with Stephanie’s parents, from Squamish, and they expressed their views about the Safe Care Act. They also spoke to me, as did Elliot’s parents today at noon, and they shared with me, in heartbreaking detail, their perception, their experiences, of how the system failed their children in many different ways. They shared with me the tragedy of the loss, but they also shared with me their children’s journey through the system and their family’s journey through the system.
Stephanie’s parents talked about fragmentation in the system. They talked about gaps in the system. They talked about going to one door and then it closing in their face, going to another door and it being closed in their face. Elliot’s parents, at noon today, talked about the same thing — about his care being fragmented, about the gaps, about lack of a withdrawal management plan when he was released.
Anyone who works in the field of addictions knows this is a very complex issue. There is not one single solution, and that’s why we are looking at the wide range of services and supports and programs and legislation and policy to support children at risk of overdose.
Source: BC Hansard.