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Renewed calls for rehab help after 2nd Vancouver Island youth drug death

Click to play video: 'Another overdose death of a Vancouver Island girl increases calls for rehab help' Another overdose death of a Vancouver Island girl increases calls for rehab help
WATCH: Just a day after we told you about a 12-year old Vancouver Island girl who died of a suspected overdose, we're learning of a 17-year old girl who died in a similar fashion. And as Kylie Stanton reports, that's increasing calls for action, including possible mandatory treatment in some situations – May 7, 2021

The death of yet another young person on Vancouver Island from a suspected drug overdose has renewed the call for more resources and treatment options for teens.

Bella Jones, 17, died last week in Nanaimo. She had been living on the streets since she was 13, and had long struggled with substance use.

“She was a ray of sunshine for everyone; everybody loved Bella. The biggest heart of gold,” Tanya Hiltz, president of the Wisteria Community Association and a friend of Jones’, told Global News.

Read more: ‘You were crying for help’: B.C. mom’s anguish after daughter, 12, died of suspected drug overdose

“We’ve got to save more of these kids instead of losing them … The system is failing them all. We need more rehabs, we need more people out there on the street helping them.”

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Jones’ mother told Global News she was so desperate to find help for her daughter, she signed her care over to the Ministry of Children and Family Development for several years, hoping it could do more to help her.

Click to play video: 'Death of 12-year old girl prompts Victoria mother to call for more drug rehab facilities for youths' Death of 12-year old girl prompts Victoria mother to call for more drug rehab facilities for youths
Death of 12-year old girl prompts Victoria mother to call for more drug rehab facilities for youths – May 6, 2021

Jones is the second Vancouver Island youth to die in recent weeks of a suspected drug overdose. On April 14, 12-year-old Allayah Thomas lost her life to drugs. Her mother told Global News she’s been unable to find a rehab facility that would take someone younger than 14.

B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson called that death a “tragic loss,” Friday, as the province launched a new app called “Foundry BC,” meant to connect youth aged 12 to 24-years-old with mental health and substance use supports.

Read more: Nearly 500 in B.C. died of an overdose in first three months of 2021, coroner reports

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While the app is good news for many youth struggling with drug issues, it may not be able to address the needs of particularly high-risk teens.

One B.C. doctor says it’s time to revisit the NDP’s proposed Bill 22, which would give health officials the power to keep youth in hospital without their consent as they recover from drug overdoses.

Click to play video: 'B.C. marks five years since overdose crisis public health emergency declaration' B.C. marks five years since overdose crisis public health emergency declaration
B.C. marks five years since overdose crisis public health emergency declaration – Apr 14, 2021

“We think they should be admitted,” pediatrician Dr. Tom Warshawki said.

“This should be done in a caring fashion which is, ‘Whoa, you almost died, what can we do to make this safer?’ Ideally enter into treatment. If nothing else, use more safely.”

Hiltz said something like that could have saved Jones, or at least have given her a better chance.

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Read more: Kelowna mom calling for safe drug supply as toxic drug deaths continue to climb

Instead, she’s being mourned by her community.

“This one hit home for a lot of people, because Bella touched a lot of hearts out there,” Hiltz said.

“People all knew her, trusted her and loved her. They’re really feeling it.”

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