‘Like a ray of sunshine’: Another child dies from suspected overdose on Vancouver Island


Another heart goes up on a wall at Nanaimo’s Wisteria Community Association marking yet another life lost to overdose and this one hits particularly hard.

“I’m having a hard time because that’s one of our youngest to lose right now, hopefully, we don’t lose anymore but it’s pretty scary times,” said Tanya Hiltz, President of the Wisteria Community Association.

A 17-years-old Nanaimo girl, known by friends as Bella Jones, died from a suspected drug overdose last week.

“[She was] quiet, beautiful, but very intelligent, very smart young lady, like a ray of sunshine,” said Hiltz who is close friends of the family.

Jones had been on the streets struggling with substance use since she was just 13-years-old.

Her mom tells CHEK news that she was so desperate to get Jones help that she signed her care over to the Ministry of Children and Families, thinking they could do more to save her.

“I don’t think with the systems and the programs you guys have out here, I don’t think you could have saved her, I really don’t,” said friend Eric Kivell who has lived on the streets since he was 10-years-old.

Bella Jones is now the second child to die from a suspected overdose on Vancouver Island in just the past few weeks.

12-year-old Allayah Thomas died at a friend’s Langford home on April 14. The Grade 6 student had overdosed three times in the months prior, yet her family’s pleas for mandatory treatment weren’t answered.

CHEK’s Rob Shaw has further details on how B.C. politicians are responding to calls for new legislation that would confine at-risk youth in hospital for substance use treatment.

A B.C. pediatrician, who specializes in youth substance use, says in these high-risk situations, it’s time to reconsider mandatory stabilization.

“Someone’s got to say whoa whoa whoa, you almost died here, we’re going to keep you here for a sec, let’s figure out what’s going on,” said Dr. Tom Warshawski.

He says the number of youth coming to the emergency room after overdosing has increased dramatically over the past five years, adding that once a child has a life-threatening overdose, they have a 5 to 10 per cent chance of dying within the year.

READ MORE: ‘Enough meetings’: Growing calls for action after 12-year-old Saanich girl dies from overdose

Warshawski says children with eating disorders will be admitted against their will if necessary, but it’s not the same for substance use.

“It’s the same age group, it’s the same unwillingness to go into treatment, we say no you’re not thinking straight, so we’re not going to allow you to make the decision right now, we’re going to come back to that in a little bit but right now let’s just keep you here and keep you safe,” he said.

With poisonous drugs on the street, Warshawski says now is the time to revisit the NDP’s proposed Bill 22 which would allow just that.

“Look at where there were valid criticisms of it, correct those criticisms and put it in place with a continuum of care, it’s not the answer but it’s part of the answer,” Warshawski said.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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