Bill 22: Proposed involuntary treatment raises more questions than answers for youth who use drugs

published on July 3, 2020 by Andreas Pilarinos and Elisabeth Bailey in Georgia Straight

The overdose crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to impact communities across British Columbia. While researchers, health-care providers, and parents agree that youth need timely access to a continuum of treatments for substance-use disorders, the proposed changes to B.C.’s Mental Health Act do little to engage and support youth in search of help.

Bill 22, the Mental Health Amendment Act, permits the involuntary admission of youth into hospital settings for up to seven days following an overdose. Proponents argue that an overdose event provides a critical window of opportunity to intervene and connect youth with relevant community supports and treatments.

Supporters cite a pilot project at B.C. Children’s Hospital that provided youth with “stabilization care” before connecting them to community supports after discharge. It is important to note that findings from this pilot have not been published or made publicly available, so it is difficult to judge how directly they relate to the proposed legislation.

However, this pilot alone does not justify the expansive amendments proposed in Bill 22, particularly without explanation of how the suggested care will be provided in the current health-care context. Without immediate availability of youth-specific services in both hospital and community-based settings, the ability of providers to follow through on “stabilization care” and the proposed discharge plans is severely limited…

View the full article