A change to B.C.’s Mental Health Act has been proposed to allow young people to be held for immediate treatment for 48 hours after they arrive at hospital with a drug overdose.
The “short-term stabilization care” can be extended up to seven days, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy told the B.C. legislature June 23.
“Stabilization care under the mental health act is intended to protect youth who present in the hospital emergency department in the midst of an overdose, and to keep them safe in a designated stabilization care facility,” Darcy said. “It will allow provision of medically necessary health care and observation for the youth to recover from their overdose, and will allow them to regain their decision-making capacity, which is diminished in the immediate aftermath of an overdose.”
The legislation comes after B.C. recorded 170 fatal drug overdoses in May, the highest in a single month since the province declared a public health emergency to deal with the influx of potent opioid street drugs.
Darcy said the measure will include “strict conditions” on detaining young people, based on advice from B.C. Children’s Hospital and other health experts. The short-term emergency care will be available at hospitals across the province, she said.
Dr. Tom Warshawski, chair of the B.C. Pediatric Society’s secure care group, said the measure is urgently needed.
“As many as 10 per cent of adults who have a non-fatal opioid overdose die within one year,” Warshowski said in a statement. “Now, with this legislation, clinicians have the legal tool, with safeguards, to help a youth take a pause in their drug use in order to have their medical and mental health needs addressed, reconnect with supports and possibly enter into treatment or, at the very least, be equipped to use drugs safely until such time as they are able to take positive steps toward recovery.”