The need for harm reduction is key to helping save young lives.
That’s a key conclusion of a new report released by the province’s Representative for Children and Youth (RCY) focusing on substance use.
The report, titled “Time to Listen: Youth Voices on Substance Use,” drew on information collected by 100 youth experienced with substance abuse.
RCY Jennifer Charlesworth also looked at substance-related critical injury reports made to her office.
One of the main focuses of the report is how to save lives from the opioid crisis.
The report shows that in 2017 the opioid crisis took 1,452 lives. Included in that number is 24 youth between the ages of 10 and 18.
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The report has five recommendations, including one that may prove controversial for some: the suggestion the province consider a supervised consumption site for youth.
“We also have to include harm reduction,” said Charlesworth.
“Which might also include safe consumption for young people who use substances. But harm reduction is a critical part of that continuum of care.”
Further recommendations in the report outline that a robust array of services and supports must be instituted and offered for all young British Columbians, and that these be accessible and youth-friendly to use.
It also calls on youth to be engaged and have a voice. Finally, the report recommends there be an implementation of a comprehensive training program to help foster parents engage in dialogue with youth about substance use.
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“My Ministry is working closely with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, First Nations Health Authority, Métis Nation BC and Indigenous organizations on the development of a comprehensive mental health and substance-use system of care that meets the diverse needs of all youth,” said Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy in a statement.
“The ministries of Mental Health and Addictions, Health, and Children and Family Development will review the report’s recommendations carefully and work with the RCY as we continue to escalate our response to the overdose crisis and improve mental health and addictions care for all youth in our province,” the statement adds.
Dylan Cohen, a youth organizer with the First Call BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition was also present at Thursday’s press conference.
He says the report highlights how not enough is being done to aid those with substance abuse issues and the general lack of services and resources made available to youth leaving the system.
Cohen says once youth in the system turn 19, many feel like they’re falling off a cliff since supports evaporate.
“No one should age out of care,” he said. “We should age into community.”