Gateway Gazette

Child and Youth Advocate Releases Investigative Review Involving Deaths of 12 Young People

The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate (OCYA) has completed an Investigative Review and is publicly releasing the results of the review as outlined under the Child and Youth Advocate Act.

The Advocate learned of the deaths of 12 young people, including two brothers, who died from opioid poisoning between October 2015 and September 2017. Each one of them were receiving child intervention services when they passed away, or had received services within two years of their death.

“Although this report is about 12 young people collectively, it is important to remember them as individuals and that their deaths were a loss to their families and communities,” said Del Graff, Provincial Child and Youth Advocate. “It is imperative that the Government of Alberta take quick action on the recommendations contained within this report so that fewer lives are lost.”

While the Government of Alberta and community agencies are working to reduce harm and the number of deaths related to opioid use, the experiences of these 12 young people brings attention to the critical need for a youth-specific response to the opioid issue. Current strategies and initiatives do not address the unique needs of young people.

The intent of an Investigative Review is not to find fault with specific individuals, but to identify and advocate for system improvements that will help enhance the overall safety and well-being of children and youth who are receiving designated services.

A copy of the Investigative Review and recommendations are available on our website: www.ocya.alberta.ca/adult/publications/investigative-review/.

The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate is an independent office of the Legislature, representing the rights, interests and viewpoints of children and young people receiving designated government services.

Backgrounder

Demographic Information on our 12 Young People:

  • Of the 12 young people in this report five were female, seven were male
  • Eight were Caucasian, one was First Nation, two were Métis, one of mixed race
  • Ten of these young people were hospitalized for drug-related overdose or psychosis
  • Nine of these young people had co-occurring mental health and/or cognitive disabilities
  • Six young people were confined in a protective safe house
  • Residential treatment was not significantly used by these young people, three accessed residential treatment services (one young person did not complete the program)
  • Eleven young people had involvement under the Youth Criminal Justice Act; six spent time in jail

Provincial Stats:

  • Between January to March 2018, young people 24 years and under account for 16 of the 158 or 10% reported fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta (Source: Alberta Health, Analytics and Performance Reporting Branch, email, June 11, 2018)
  • In 2017, 733 people died from an apparent accidental opioid overdose
    • Approximately 76 were under the age of 24 (AHS Quarterly Report – 2017 Q4)
    • On average, 2 individuals in Alberta die every day as a result of an apparent accidental opioid overdose – Source: AHS Quarterly Report May 2018
  • Since 2015, 229 young people 24 years and under died from accidental opioid poisoning. The 229 deaths make up 12% of all accidental opioid poisoning deaths in the same period (Source: Alberta Health, Analytics and Performance Reporting Branch, email, June 11, 2018)
  • In Alberta, young people age 15 to 24 are among the highest and fastest-growing rates of Emergency Department visits for opioid poisoning (tripling over the past 5 years with majority of the increase over the past 3 years) – Source: Opioid-Related Harms in Canada Chartbook (2017)

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