NDP must do more to help vulnerable youth: BC Liberals

KARIN Kirkpatrick, BC Liberal Critic for Children and Family Development, on Tuesday called on the NDP to invest in substantive changes to ensure youth are respected in response to the report released by B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, “Detained: Rights of children and youth under the Mental Health Act.’

The report reveals a significant increase in the number of children and youth receiving involuntary mental health services, particularly First Nations, Metis, and urban Indigenous youth, raising questions about the adequacy of the voluntary, community-based system of care and treatment. It further details that young people are apparently not being informed of or supported to exercise their rights under the Mental Health Act.

“I support the recommendations from the Representative for Children and Youth focused on changing the approach we take with young people in mental health detention,” said Kirkpatrick. “In some cases, where there is imminent danger of self-harm, detention may well be in the best interest of the young person. However, we cannot forget the need to engage and have a culturally respectful process.

“This latest report is another reminder that the NDP government must do more to protect at-risk youth in British Columbia. As the opioid crisis claims more young lives, the NDP continues to fail to find a way to develop viable legislation to help youth struggling with addiction. The BC Liberals have offered a solution the NDP government has chosen to ignore, introducing the Safe Care Act three times to help young people end the cycle of addiction.

“Any future legislation relating to youth mental health must take the report’s recommendations into consideration, particularly those that recognize the unique experiences of Indigenous youth.”

Shiela Malcolmson

SHEILA Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, in response to the report “Detained: Rights of Children and Youth under the Mental Health Act, said in a statement:

“Thank you to the representative and the young people and youth advocates who added their voices to this report. It is never easy to tell your story and I thank you for sharing your experiences. We welcome this important input and accept the recommendations in principle. We will be working with our partner ministries to review and develop a plan with Indigenous partners to address the recommendations and reflect them in ongoing work as we continue building a co-ordinated mental health and addictions system from the ground up.

“As part of that work, we are going to keep listening to advocates, experts, families and young people with lived experience. Our main focus continues to be on boosting the voluntary system of care so young people can get help early on, before smaller problems become larger ones. At the same time, we’re committed to ensuring that safeguards and culturally appropriate care are in place in more acute situations when involuntary admissions are necessary.

“Nothing is more important to our work than keeping people safe, especially young people. Our government is committed to working with Indigenous partners to create a system of mental health and substance use services that acknowledge the legacy of colonialism and racism, and one that is culturally safe and embraces Indigenous models of healing.

“We’ve been making progress for young people in B.C. since 2017 by expanding voluntary services that support them. New Foundry centres, child and youth teams in school districts, doubling the number of youth substance use treatment beds and expanding specialized services are just some of the examples. But after so many years where there was no system for young people to turn to, many people are still struggling to get care.

“We still have a long road ahead, but together with our partners, we will build that better system that supports cultural safety and works for everyone.”