Provincial government to double youth addiction treatment beds

24 B.C. youth aged 14-24 died of overdoses between January and June

B.C. youth struggling with addictions will soon have access to a further 123 treatment beds in addition to 124 such beds currently.

“Young people and their families have faced long waits for treatment and a fragmented mental health and addictions system,” Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy said. “Young people shouldn't have to wait for care.”

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She said from January to June, 24 people aged 14-24 have lost their lives to overdoses. So far this year, there have been 728 overdose deaths in B.C.

In June 2020, there were 175 suspected illicit drug deaths, a 130% increase over June 2019 and a 2% increase over the number of deaths in May. The numbers are records in the four-year-long overdose crisis.

In 2020, 68% of those dying were aged 19-49.

So, the provincial government has earmarked $36 million for 2022-23 for addicted youth assistance with locations to be determined by regional health authorities.

Darcy said the first round of new beds is expected to be in place by the end of the fiscal year. She said more will follow as health authorities find locations, plan clinical supports and complete implementation.

The minister said the beds are part of a continuum of care including detox, drug replacement therapy, clean drug supply and medical assistance. The work will also include specialized facilities with 24-hour availability of psychiatrists and nurses, Darcy said.

Victoria’s Threshold Housing Society assists youth at risk. Spokesman Colin Tessier said without appropriate supports, youth face trauma. Harm and death.

“We are losing far too many people and far too many youth.”

He said youth beds fill a gap in B.C.’s addiction treatment continuum of care that should be available when youth want help.

“That window of clarity and desire for help can close really quickly,” he said.

While much of recent focus on the overdose crisis has focussed on opioids, Darcy said help is available to people dealing with addiction to a wide range of substances including alcohol.
Darcy said the work is part of the government’s A Pathway to Hope, B.C.'s plan to improve mental health and addictions care better for British Columbians.

Doctors of B.C. president Dr. Kathleen Ross said at-risk youth are uniquely affected by both COVID-19 and substance-use issues.

“The near doubling of treatment beds will help youth who have taken many courageous steps to seek help and cannot afford to face long waitlists or closed doors,” Ross said. This is a positive step supporting the recovery of youth with substance-use issues, and it is a part of a larger effort.”


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