A mother from the Cowichan Valley feels the justice system is failing her and her troubled daughter.
Standing outside the Duncan Courthouse moments after her daughter was, once again, released into the custody of a local group home after her fourth disappearance in a little over a year, the mother said she’s frustrated that the system is not doing nearly enough to help her daughter.
She said her daughter has a serious drug problem and is, at this stage, not willing to accept help in combating it.
She said she fully expects that her daughter will, again, just walk out of the group home and disappear, and family and friends will, again, hit the streets in another effort to locate her.
“I’m concerned about how this will play out and I’m afraid it will end bad if something is not done,” she said.
“I have no idea what to do. I feel like I’m losing my mind and maybe my daughter.”
The mother said her daughter was a very friendly and outgoing person up until about two years ago when she began to change and started skipping school.
She said her daughter had some psychological issues that were diagnosed at the time as ADHD, but believes her daughter is actually bipolar or has schizophrenia.
The mother said her daughter has been ordered by the courts to remain at the group home after previous disappearances, but she constantly just walks away and the justice system is failing to hold her to account when she is finally located, usually by family members after scouring the streets and seeking information from other addicts.
“The courts just see her as a minor who is not in her right state of mind and let her go back to the group home every time she is found,” she said.
“I want her mentally assessed and for the courts to make it mandatory for her to take part in a detox program. I’ve said that I will try to detox her myself, but I’m being told that I could be charged because I would be participating in unlawful confinement and I don’t have the proper training to conduct a detox program.”
The mother said she’s disillusioned and heartbroken over the whole process, and fears for her daughter.
“If something happens to my daughter, who is at fault?” she asked.
Krista Hobday, a spokeswoman for the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, said once cases like this reach the court level, it’s out of the hands of the police.
“We do all we can to get young people like this off the streets and get them the help they need,” she said.
“We can make recommendations, but it’s ultimately up to the judge to decide what happens next.”
In a statement, Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said she has spoken with parents from many different communities and different types of families, including families in the Cowichan Valley, and has heard consistently that there are significant gaps in access to the services the province’s children and youth need.
She said many families can’t get access to services to help their children who are struggling with mental illness or addiction.
“I have also heard from parents who fear for the safety of their child who uses drugs, but refuses treatment or leaves treatment,” Darcy said.
“They feel helpless, and their entire focus is on keeping their child alive. The idea of compelling a young person into treatment is a complex issue. We need to look at the evidence on how effective this approach is, and the experience of other jurisdictions that have moved in this direction. This is an issue that we will examine as part of our work to develop a seamless, coordinated system of mental health and addictions care that supports families effectively.”
Darcy said the new NDP government has established a dedicated Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions to give this area the attention it deserves, to make a difference for the people and families suffering.
“We need to take immediate action to save more lives in the face of the overdose crisis, which we are doing,” she said.
“And at the same time, we also need to work across government on a broader strategy to start creating a system of care where people who ask for help, get help fast.”