Pubdate: Fri, 12 May 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Page: A13


A Victoria father wants the power to force his 15-year-old daughter
into a drug-rehabilitation facility. He fears for her life, because
the girl has become a heroin addict, and might also have used
fentanyl. She's been hospitalized at least twice for overdose treatment.

Seven provinces, including Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, have
legislation permitting kids to be admitted involuntarily to detox
centres. But no such option exists in B.C.

This year, Gordon Hogg, the retiring MLA for Surrey-White Rock, tabled
a Safe Care Act, which would have created the required authority.
However, the bill died when the election was called.

Moreover, Stephanie Cadieux, minister of children and family
development, said her government had no intention of proceeding in
this direction. She said voluntary treatment has proved more successful.

It's not strictly correct to say kids with drug problems cannot be
confined. They frequently are - in provincial lock-ups after a run-in
with the police.

But this is the worst of all worlds. Treatment is scant or
non-existent, and they emerge with a criminal record that will dog
them for life. Short of that, forcible intervention is not permissible
if a child over 12 refuses help.

As with just about every issue raised by drug addiction, there is no
easy answer here. Teenagers at the best of times lack an adult sense
of consequences. If they've become addicted, their thought processes
are even less reliable. In emergency situations, standing by and
letting a child die of a fentanyl overdose is surely not acceptable.

On the other hand, teenagers inevitably react in a hostile manner to
forcible treatment. There are also civil-liberty issues to contend
with. Should parents retain the right to impose a course of action
when their child approaches adulthood?

But most significant, there is little evidence that, by itself,
forcing teenagers into detox facilities does much good. This is the
argument Cadieux put forward.

However, that is not the end of the matter. Alberta has had success
using involuntary confinement, if - and this is the critical point -
the child is then provided with follow-up services.

In this model, parents can apply for a court ruling to have their
child admitted. Many of these kids have been living on the street,
without adequate shelter or nutrition. They might have caught a
sexually transmitted disease.

The purpose of the forcible confinement, which lasts 10 days, is to
stabilize the situation. Medication is available to treat withdrawal
symptoms, and proper food and care are provided.

Upon their release, a network of community-based services kicks in, to
offer counselling, mental-health care, intensive day treatment at
outpatient facilities, and referrals to volunteer organizations that
work in this field. Parents also get advice on how to re-establish
trust with kids.

Fewer than half of the teenagers who go through this program end up
being re-admitted to involuntary care. That is by no means a perfect
score, but it does suggest that teens can be successfully weaned off
drugs, if sufficient resources are marshalled.

Regrettably, B.C. has made only rudimentary steps in this direction.
There are voluntary residential-care facilities in several Vancouver
Island communities, but nothing approaching the fully integrated
program that Alberta has developed.

B.C.'s former children's representative, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond,
made this point when she noted that teens were dying because they fell
through the cracks of mental-health and addiction treatment. The
arrival of fentanyl - and more dangerous drugs still to come - has
made the crisis worse.

Whether involuntary care is appropriate remains debatable. What is not
debatable is that our existing measures are completely inadequate.
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MAP posted-by: Matt