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Concerns raised as B.C. considers changes to Mental Health Act

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BC's Representative for Children and Youth is concerned about a 'lack of balance' in BC's approach to Mental Health Act

B.C. introduced a proposed amendment that would allow hospitals to keep youth for up to seven days following an overdose

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The province’s representative for children and youth says more needs to be done to adequately address and help youth who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction.

The province will be considering an amendment to the Mental Health Act, that would allow hospitals to keep youth for up to seven days following an overdose.

Previously the maximum was 48 hours under involuntary hospital care.

Jennifer Charlesworth is raising her concerns, saying changing the amendment won’t amount to any real change and may prevent young people from seeking help.

“It’s a patchwork array of things that are in place, there are some programs in some regions and not in other regions. There is an absence of programs for residential treatment for example. And there are waitlists for a number of services.”

Instead, Charlesworth says the province should be focusing on funding longterm, community-based services that are also culturally appropriate.

“What we really need is a system of care that’s accessible to children in youth and their families throughout the province.”

She adds, instead of forcing people into care, the province should offer more permanent and meaningful solutions.

“What do they do after they’ve been stabilized? We don’t have a strong voluntary care system for treatment, detoxification, recovery, or prevention and harm reduction for that matter,” she says.

“So that’s the problem is it’s one tool in the toolkit, but you can’t build that what needs to be built without all of the other tools.”

Lisa Lapointe with the B.C. Coroners Service also raised concerns that the changes would increase “unintended consequences,” including an increase in overdose deaths.