‘Mom, I’m in trou­ble’

Mother of 17-year-old drug ad­dict dis­cusses prob­lems with sys­tem

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

Names have been changed to pro­tect the iden­tity of the youth and his fam­ily.

This story deals with graphic sub­ject mat­ter and may not be suit­able for all read­ers.

It’s a mother’s worst night­mare, get­ting the call say­ing her child was se­verely in­jured, or worse, dead.

That is what Cathy ex­pe­ri­enced ear­lier this month when her teenage son called her un­ex­pect­edly.

“I knew some­thing wasn’t right be­cause my phone was vi­brat­ing dif­fer­ently, not like a text mes­sage,” Cathy told The Com­pass at her home last week. “It was Steven. He said, ‘Mom I’m in trou­ble. I tried to off my­self.’”

In 2014-15, 554 young peo­ple un­der the age of 18 went to the Janeway Chil­dren’s Health and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre for de­pres­sion, sui­cide or self-harm.

Af­ter a breakup with his girl­friend, the 17-year-old felt like life wasn’t worth liv­ing. Oth­ers heard a com­mo­tion and man­aged to help him be­fore it was too late.

He then ran off and called Cathy, which be­gan the most dif­fi­cult week of her life.

Drug in­volve­ment

Steven has been ad­dicted to dif­fer­ent types of drugs for the past four years. He is now re­ceiv­ing help at a pro­vin­cial gov­ern- ment youth fa­cil­ity in Grand Falls-Wind­sor called Hope Val­ley. This is the first time he reached out for help.

“I told him, ‘ You knocked on death’s door. You’re lucky he didn’t an­swer,’” she said.

Steven was im­me­di­ately brought in to emer­gency at a lo­cal hos­pi­tal and placed un­der sui­cide watch. Af­ter be­ing eval­u­ated by a men­tal health pro­fes­sional at the fa­cil­ity, it was de­ter­mined he was high risk to harm him­self. That de­ter­mi­na­tion be­gan a long process of brick walls and bar­ri­cades.

The Water­ford Hos­pi­tal wouldn’t ac­cept him be­cause he was still a mi­nor, and the Janeway ini­tially tried to re­fer him to the Water­ford. But af­ter a bit of back and forth, Cathy said he was ad­mit­ted to the Janeway.

Im­me­di­ately upon ar­rival, Cathy was at­tempt­ing to get Steven re­ferred to Hope Val­ley. But that proved more dif­fi­cult that she thought.

In­stead of keep­ing Steven at the fa­cil­ity while wait­ing for the re­fer­ral, a psy­chol­o­gist told Cathy to sign him out and take care of him at home for 24 hours un­til he could get into Hope Val­ley. So she took him home to be­gin detox­i­fi­ca­tion. It was the worst ex­pe­ri­ence of her life.

“No one should ever see their child like that,” she said.

The fol­low­ing day, a Fri­day be­fore a long week­end, she made dozens of calls to the Janeway, the psy­chol­o­gist’s of­fice, Child, Youth and Fam­ily Ser­vices and other Eastern Health de­part­ments, just try­ing to get an an­swer.

From the time he at­tempted to kill him­self un­til he was ad­mit­ted to Hope Val­ley, six days passed.

“Six days in my house with me and my fam­ily tak­ing care of him,” Cathy said. “I had to watch my son detox for six days, with no call back.”

Eastern Health re­ferred 3,179 in­di­vid­u­als for men­tal health ser­vices in 2014-15.

When some­one fi­nally called back, Cathy said it was be­cause she threat­ened le­gal ac­tion.

A so­cial worker wrote the re­fer­ral and gave her a stack of pa­per­work to fill out, and Steven was off to re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

The Depart­ment of Health and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices has a scale for de­ter­min­ing how fast youth get re­ferred — emer­gent, se­vere, mod­er­ate and mild. This process could re­sult in im­me­di­ate ser­vice or a 30-work­ing-day wait pe­riod.

Eastern Health did not ad­dress any de­tails re­gard­ing Steve’s re­fer­ral to Hope Val­ley or his ex­pe­ri­ence with the health au­thor­ity in an emailed state­ment to The Com­pass.

Not just a joint

Steve’s drug use was not pro­gres­sive. He got hooked on the hard stuff al­most im­me­di­ately.

“When Steve came home that first night af­ter the first time (tak­ing drugs at a party), he wasn’t my son. My son never came home,” she said.

It was a joint of mar­i­juana that he had, but it was laced with co­caine, some­thing known on the street as a freezie. “He just got a taste for it,” Cathy said. It was down­hill from there, with nu­mer­ous crim­i­nal charges, ex­ces­sive drug use and vi­o­lence. Steve stopped go­ing to school and lived in nu­mer­ous places over the next few years.

Be­cause he was liv­ing on his own, Cathy said he would re­ceive money each month from the gov­ern­ment as a liv­ing al­lowance. He would in turn use this money to buy drugs.

Cathy com­plained to nu­mer­ous gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions about the prac­tice, call­ing the gov­ern­ment hyp­ocrites for feed­ing a child’s ad­dic­tion. She also noted any­one can get their hands on most drugs since there are many deal­ers in the area.

“Peo­ple need to un­der­stand the dan­gers that are lurk­ing right out­side your door for your chil­dren,” she said.

A drug that Cathy said is com­mon in the CBN area is salvia di­vi­no­rum (salvia), a plant na­tive to south­ern Mexico with psy­che­delic prop­er­ties. It was sup­posed to be added to a ban list by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment ear­lier this year, but has made its way into the re­gion. Cathy is con­cerned about the un­der­age chil­dren be­ing tar­geted to sell the drugs to, be­cause that was go­ing on with her son.

Get­ting help

Af­ter years of try­ing, Steven fi­nally agreed to get help, but it was al­most too late for him. He re­ceived a lot of as­sis­tance from the U-Turn ad­dic­tions cen­tre in Car­bon­ear, which helps peo­ple all over Trin­ity Conception.

“I had to mourn the loss of my son,” Cathy said, not­ing she had to re­al­ize that the son she had was not the same any­more and couldn’t blame her­self.

“At the cen­tre, we say, ‘ You didn’t cause it, you can’t fix it,’” Cathy said. “That’s some­thing you have to come to terms with.”

She is ac­tively build­ing a re­la­tion­ship with Steve again through phone calls.

“I have to make him aware of how proud I am of him,” she said. “It’s the only way we’re go­ing to move for­ward.”

The pro­gram will take six months — 90 days in the youth fa­cil­ity and 90 days in the com­mu­nity.

Any­one can self-re­fer to men­tal health and ad­dic­tions by call­ing the Grand Fall­sWind­sor of­fice at (709) 489-8101. An in­take nurse will make ap­pro­pri­ate re­fer­rals to pro­grams and ser­vices, in­clud­ing re­fer­ring to a clin­i­cian for coun­selling.

PHOTO BY MELISSA JENK­INS/THE COM­PASS

The Trin­ity Conception RCMP co-hosted a chil­dren’s bike rodeo in Car­bon­ear with The Com­pass just last week. Kids age three to 12 strapped on their hel­mets, hopped on their bikes and headed to the Conception Bay Re­gional Com­mu­nity Cen­tre park­ing lot. One of the 38 par­tic­i­pants was Mar­cus Keefe of Spa­niard’s Bay. Mar­cus liked learn­ing the hand sig­nals and safety tips, but most of all he en­joyed the ob­sta­cle course. For more photos from the bike rodeo, see page B1.

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