Lorna Mace is a counsellor and social worker at The Foundry Victoria Youth Clinic. As a front line worker, she believes more harm reduction needs to be done for youth facing the opioid crisis. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Lorna Mace is a counsellor and social worker at The Foundry Victoria Youth Clinic. As a front line worker, she believes more harm reduction needs to be done for youth facing the opioid crisis. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Youngest opioid overdose victim in B.C. last year was 10 years old

Front-line workers advocate for a youth-targeted supervised consumption site in Greater Victoria

The youngest person in B.C. to die of an opioid overdose in 2017 was 10 years old.

According to a report put forward by Representative of Children and Youth B.C., another 23 who died were under 18.

This led to an investigation and a report titled Time to Listen, which is calling for more youth-specific harm reduction resources, including a youth supervised consumption site.

“When we start to see patterns like that, it’s important to get underneath them and see what’s going on,” said Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth, representative for children and youth B.C.

Charlesworth and her team sought information by speaking to youth who use opioids across the province.

“The thing that’s still heartbreaking is to learn from the young people is that they use substances primarily to numb the pain from the trauma in their lives,” Charlesworth said. “For me as a parent and practitioner, I just think that really is a wake-up call. Who are we as a society that’s allowing kids to be in so much pain that they take themselves to death’s door?”

ALSO READ: Parents call for change to health laws after Oak Bay teen’s death

READ MORE: Moms of those killed by illicit opioids take to B.C. Legislature in call for action

She said that while there are many resources out there for adults, youth need a safe space to get support and not feel ashamed.

“The most important thing is the call for a more robust array of services. We need education, early intervention, support, mental health support, detox centres with drug management,” Charlesworth said.

“A lot of kids said even if they could go or have gone to safe consumption sites, they’re not safe because there are adults that are deeply into their addiction and exploitation is much more likely. We need to keep them safe.”

Victoria’s first supervised consumption site, The Harbour, opened in June, and while people can attend anonymously, Island Health has already identified two regular attendees under the age of 16, and another eight who are between 16 and 19.

ALSO READ: Pandora supervised consumption site has busy first month

For The Foundry-Victoria Youth Clinic, which services people aged 12 to 24, the need for more resources is paramount.

“Victoria has a very young substance use population,” said Lorna Mace, counsellor and social worker at The Foundry. “It’s not necessarily appropriate for someone who is 16 to share a detox site with someone whose 60.”

ALSO READ: Centre for youth seeking mental health and addictions support opens in Victoria

Mace said one of The Foundry’s most popular resources, either through direct prescription or a referral, is the Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT), which works to wean young addicts off of opioids by substituting them with suboxone, methadone or a slow-release morphine called Kadian.

Mace said there are more than 30 Victoria youth using the OAT program, with the youngest being 14.

Many others may not be using opioids but could be dependent on Xanax, alcohol, codeine and cough syrup.

“They’re all numbing agents, it’s a way to escape,” Mace said, noting that many youths who come in say their drug of choice is heroin, which in most cases is actually found to be fentanyl.

BIG READ: Victoria woman shares her painful experience with opioid addiction

Having a more youth-specific site would offer a space to be free of shame and judgment, and also bridge traditional services, which typically switch from youth to adult at 19. Additionally, a youth-targeted clinic would ensure that the staff all have the correct knowledge or available resources specifically for youth.

While some parents may be afraid that a specific site would encourage youth to use drugs, both Mace and Charlesworth argued that more resources lead to informed decisions, and have never been proven to encourage drug use.

“There needs to be a place where youth can go that’s developmentally appropriate,” Charlesworth said. “I’d much rather see them there than in an alley or exploited.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Harm reductionopioid crisis

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria police use bean bag round in arrest

Man arrested for assault with weapon, uttering threats

Test positivity rates in Greater Victoria from April 23 to 29. (BC CDC data)
Leaked data shows View Royal top of COVID-19 list for Greater Victoria

View Royal mayor says week was a blip for the township, not the norm

A member of the Downtown Victoria Business Association Clean Team works along Fort Street. The team will be working weekends from May through September, providing seven day a week coverage. (Photo courtesy DVBA)
Downtown Victoria cleanup service expanded for spring, summer

Clean Team members to patrol sidewalks seven days a week through September

This rendering shows the proposed warehouse for lands under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority near a Sidney residential neighbourhood. (York Reality/Submitted).
Sidney warehouse proposal receives more than 40 public feedback comments

Sidney has until May 11 to submit comments to Victoria Airport Authority

Carolyn West plans to run each of the Victoria Goddess Runs this year, in support of Victoria Women’s Transition House Society. (Courtesy Carolyn West)
Runner tackles solo Goddess Run to raise funds for women, children fleeing violence

Women’s Transition House Society named official cause for Goddess Runs

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected bird strike on Snowbirds plane during training in Comox

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

BCIT. (Wikimedia Commons)
BCIT apologizes after employee’s ‘offensive and hurtful’ email leaked to Métis Nation

BCIT says employee’s conduct has been investigated and addressed

An adult male yellow-breasted chat is shown in this undatd photograph on lands protected in collaboration between the En’owkin Centre and Penticton Indian Band with support through ECCC. The rescue from near extinction for a little yellow bird hinges on the wild rose in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, a researcher says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, A. Michael Bezener/ En’owkin Centre 2020 *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Rare yellow birds need wild roses to survive in British Columbia: researcher

The importance of local wild roses emerged over a nearly 20-year experiment

Alberni Valley Bulldogs forward comes away with the puck after a battle along the boards with Grizzlies defenceman Jake Veilleux. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
BCHL: Victoria Grizzlies named Island Champions

Grizzlies edged Alberni Valley Bulldogs in back-to-back matches to claim title

RCMP officers search around rows of luggage carts as screens block off an area of the sidewalk after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Police say gang conflict in Metro Vancouver may be behind shooting death at airport

Police said this generation of gangsters is taking things to new level and have no regard for community safety

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Most Read