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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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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.
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.
“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.
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.”