B.C. needs more treatment beds for addicted youth, grieving mothers say

Two B.C. mothers who lost children to the overdose crisis say the province needs to step up with more help for addicted youth.

Massive waits in public system and exorbitant costs of private treatment leave many feeling helpless

Brandon Jansen, 20, died of a fentanyl overdose in March and his mother, Michelle says B.C. needs more drug treatment resources. (Michelle Jansen and CBC )

Two B.C. mothers who lost children to the overdose crisis say the province needs to step up with more help for addicted youth. 

​On Sunday, Veronica Staddon's 16-year-old daughter Gwynevere died of a suspected drug overdose.

Gwyn Staddon, 16, struggled with substance abuse for some time, but thought she was invincible to overdose, her grieving mother says. (Veronica Staddon )

The teen was found unresponsive in the bathroom of a Port Moody Starbucks. 

Five months ago, her boyfriend's brother, Brandon Jansen, 20 overdosed on fentanyl and died.

"If it was somebody out there in the community with a gun and every day shooting one or two people, something would be done," said Michelle Jansen, Brandon's mother. 

Treatment centres, she said, have waiting times of from four to six months. 

"Our kids will die in that time," she said. 

What Veronica Staddon and Michelle Jansen have in common beyond the grief of losing a child, is the frustration of massive waits for public health treatment and the prohibitive costs of private care. 

Long waits a problem, says doctor 

Dr. Keith Ahamad is a researcher at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and an addictions physician at St. Paul's Hospital.

He agrees timely drug treatment is not widely available. 

"There's no way that Gwyn (Staddon) should not have been able to get the treatment when she needed it," said Ahamed. 

"We've been quite frustrated with the fact that we try to get patients in to access addiction treatment and it often takes a very, long time." 

Addiction treatment in B.C. is delivered by five regional health authorities.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health says it plans to open three new youth inpatient facilities in 2017:

  • 10 beds at HOpe Centre in North Vancouver.
  • 10 beds at Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Stabilization Centre in Surrey.
  • Re-opening 22 beds at Crossings in Keremeos.

In July, the government also announced a new task force to recommend additional actions to prevent and respond to overdose deaths.

Private treatment too expensive 

Addiction treatment providers say the initiatives are a good start but will take time to catch up with the current drug epidemic. 

"There need to be more options around programs that can meet individual needs as opposed to a program that kids have to fit into," said Carolyn Tuckwell, president and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast B.C.which operates the substance abuse programs, Odyssey and Nexus. 

"The sooner people and families can get their kids connected to a person or a program that is really working for them, the sooner we can start seeing positive change," she said. 

Tuckwell said the challenge of getting into a residential treatment program often pushes people to seek private care which can be costly.

"We've heard stories of people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to have their kids in programs in the long term in the States to help to turn them around. The sky's the limit." 

Venture Academy in Kelowna provides substance use treatment, counselling and educational support services to male and female teens aged 13-18.

Founder and president Gordon Hay says the facility hosts about 20 teens at a time. 

"Our 30-day treatment program is about $289 a day. There is an optional psychological assessment that is available for a little bit more on top of that," he said. 

That price tag, he admits, is certainly one of the considerations when families consider enrolling at the centre. 

Earlier this week, Veronica Staddon told CBC the wait lists for public treatment were too long to get her daughter into treatment in a timely fashion and she couldn't afford the hefty price tag charged by private clinics.

About the Author

Belle Puri

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Belle Puri is a veteran journalist who has won awards for her reporting in a variety of fields.

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