British Columbia

Child and youth rep asks B.C. to improve mental health services following teen death

Bernard Richard makes recommendation after reviewing death of 17-year-old

CBC News

October 04, 2017

B.C.'s representative for children and youth, Bernard Richard, says the province needs a better integrated system for the treatment of mental illness. (Representative for Children and Youth/Twitter)

Following an investigation into the death of a B.C. teenager who took his own life, Bernard Richard is calling on the new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions to improve mental health services for children and youth.

The 17-year-old, referred to in the youth adovcate's report as Joshua, had been staying at B.C. Children's Hospital for four months when he ended his life in 2015.

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Richard's report, entitled Missing Pieces: Joshua's Story, found Joshua showed signs of serious mental health issues beginning at a young age.

His family sought help from the Ministry of Children and Family Development, but Richard says he he didn't receive appropriate early intervention and in the years that followed his mental health deteriorated.

Joshua attempted to take his own life several times, according to the report.

At the time of his death, the investigation found Joshua was languishing in hospital because his caregivers could not find a safe placement in the community.

Now, Richard is calling on the province's newest ministry, Mental Health and Addictions, to implement a "full continuum of mental health services" for children and youth in the province.

'A true integrated service'

"If the province commits to developing a true integrated service strategy, children such as Joshua, who clearly needed more help than he received in the three years prior to his hospital admission, may no longer fall through the cracks," wrote Richard in the 59-page report.

Richard suggests the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions work with the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the ministries of health and education and that the province provide resources to support a new system.

"We agree that Joshua's situation should have been handled differently," said Children and Family Development Minister Katrine Conroy in response to Richard's report. "The focus should have been, and always should be,  on getting the child what they need quickly."

Meanwhile, Judy Darcy, the minister for mental health and addictions said in a news release, "no family should have to go through what Joshua's family did. My heart aches for them."

Darcy says her ministry accepts the recommendation in Richard's report and that an integrated system is part of her mandate's priorities.

"This strategy is intended to include a focus on improving access, investing in early prevention and child and youth mental health," she said.

As a model, the report points to New Brunswick, which has an integrated service delivery framework for children and youth with emotional, behavioural and mental health issues.

"This approach is meant to ensure that children and youth receive an integrated approach to case management, with the aim of preventing issues from reaching a crisis," wrote Bernard, who was the children's advocate in New Brunswick before taking the B.C. position.

The report asks for a plan in B.C. to be developed within 12 months and implemented within two years.

with files from Megan Thomas.

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