Pubdate: Tue, 25 Aug 2015
Source: Compass, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2015 The Compass
Author: Melissa Jenkins
Page: A1


Mother of 17-year-old drug addict discusses problems with system

* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the youth and his

* This story deals with graphic subject matter and may not be suitable
for all readers.

It's a mother's worst nightmare, getting the call saying her child was
severely injured, or worse, dead.

That is what Cathy experienced earlier this month when her teenage son
called her unexpectedly.

"I knew something wasn't right because my phone was vibrating
differently, not like a text message," Cathy told The Compass at her
home last week. "It was Steven. He said, 'Mom I'm in trouble. I tried
to off myself.'"

In 2014-15, 554 young people under the age of 18 went to the Janeway
Children's Health and Rehabilitation Centre for depression, suicide or

After a breakup with his girlfriend, the 17-year-old felt like life
wasn't worth living. Others heard a commotion and managed to help him
before it was too late.

He then ran off and called Cathy, which began the most difficult week
of her life.

Drug involvement

Steven has been addicted to different types of drugs for the past four
years. He is now receiving help at a provincial government youth
facility in Grand Falls-Windsor called Hope Valley. This is the first
time he reached out for help.

"I told him, ' You knocked on death's door. You're lucky he didn't
answer,'" she said.

Steven was immediately brought in to emergency at a local hospital and
placed under suicide watch. After being evaluated by a mental health
professional at the facility, it was determined he was high risk to
harm himself. That determination began a long process of brick walls
and barricades.

The Waterford Hospital wouldn't accept him because he was still a
minor, and the Janeway initially tried to refer him to the Waterford.
But after a bit of back and forth, Cathy said he was admitted to the

Immediately upon arrival, Cathy was attempting to get Steven referred
to Hope Valley. But that proved more difficult that she thought.

Instead of keeping Steven at the facility while waiting for the
referral, a psychologist told Cathy to sign him out and take care of
him at home for 24 hours until he could get into Hope Valley. So she
took him home to begin detoxification. It was the worst experience of
her life.

"No one should ever see their child like that," she

The following day, a Friday before a long weekend, she made dozens of
calls to the Janeway, the psychologist's office, Child, Youth and
Family Services and other Eastern Health departments, just trying to
get an answer.

 From the time he attempted to kill himself until he was admitted to
Hope Valley, six days passed.

"Six days in my house with me and my family taking care of him," Cathy
said. "I had to watch my son detox for six days, with no call back."

Eastern Health referred 3,179 individuals for mental health services
in 2014-15.

When someone finally called back, Cathy said it was because she
threatened legal action. A social worker wrote the referral and gave
her a stack of paperwork to fill out, and Steven was off to

The Department of Health and Community Services has a scale for
determining how fast youth get referred - emergent, severe, moderate
and mild. This process could result in immediate service or a
30-working-day wait period.

Eastern Health did not address any details regarding Steve's referral
to Hope Valley or his experience with the health authority in an
emailed statement to The Compass.

Not just a joint

Steve's drug use was not progressive. He got hooked on the hard stuff
almost immediately.

"When Steve came home that first night after the first time (taking
drugs at a party), he wasn't my son. My son never came home," she said.

It was a joint of marijuana that he had, but it was laced with
cocaine, something known on the street as a freezie. "He just got a
taste for it," Cathy said. It was downhill from there, with numerous
criminal charges, excessive drug use and violence. Steve stopped going
to school and lived in numerous places over the next few years.

Because he was living on his own, Cathy said he would receive money
each month from the government as a living allowance. He would in turn
use this money to buy drugs.

Cathy complained to numerous government organizations about the
practice, calling the government hypocrites for feeding a child's
addiction. She also noted anyone can get their hands on most drugs
since there are many dealers in the area.

"People need to understand the dangers that are lurking right outside
your door for your children," she said.

A drug that Cathy said is common in the CBN area is salvia divinorum
(salvia), a plant native to southern Mexico with psychedelic
properties. It was supposed to be added to a ban list by the federal
government earlier this year, but has made its way into the region.
Cathy is concerned about the underage children being targeted to sell
the drugs to, because that was going on with her son.

Getting help

After years of trying, Steven finally agreed to get help, but it was
almost too late for him. He received a lot of assistance from the
U-Turn addictions centre in Carbonear, which helps people all over
Trinity Conception.

"I had to mourn the loss of my son," Cathy said, noting she had to
realize that the son she had was not the same anymore and couldn't
blame herself.

"At the centre, we say, ' You didn't cause it, you can't fix it,'"
Cathy said. "That's something you have to come to terms with."

She is actively building a relationship with Steve again through phone

"I have to make him aware of how proud I am of him," she said. "It's
the only way we're going to move forward."

The program will take six months - 90 days in the youth facility and
90 days in the community.

Anyone can self-refer to mental health and addictions by calling the
Grand Falls Windsor office at (709) 489-8101. An intake nurse will
make appropriate referrals to programs and services, including
referring to a clinician for counselling.
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