A Vancouver Island mother is pleading for more long-term drug treatment programs at facilities for children after her 12-year-old died last month from what she suspects was a drug overdose.
The BC Coroner's Office says Allayah Thomas' case is under investigation but the cause of death has not yet been confirmed.
Adriana Londono spoke to CHEK news and said her daughter Allayah,who went by Ally, died on April 14 in hospital in Victoria after overdosing on drugs at a friend's home in Langford.
She got the news of her daughter's death in a phone call.
"I just broke down and I was in shock, like, I'm still in shock. And I didn't know how to process it. I just ran to the bathroom and cried and screamed," said Londono.
She described Ally as sweet and loving and said she wanted to be makeup-artist but her life took a turn last year when her daughter started experimenting with drugs including methamphetamine and heroin at 11-years-old.
Londono said her family tried to get her help but was told her daughter was too young to qualify for rehab services at a facility which she believes Allayah desperately needed.
She explained that she had her daughter when she was 19-years-old and has been struggling with her own mental health issues and substance abuse issues and felt helpless.
"I haven't been helped for my problems so I felt how can i help her? I can't even help myself," said Londono.
Londono said her daughter was living with her grandparents who also tried to get help.
"That was what we really wanted and there was no rehab. They just sent us counsellor numbers, outreach workers and all these things that really weren't enough. Like she needed to go to rehab. There needs to be a rehab facility for kids under 14."
Her grandparents told CHEK news, the Grade 6 student refused to go to counselling.
Gaps in treatment services
B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth acknowledged there are significant gaps in treatment services especially for families living outside of urban areas.
She said overdose deaths among children are rare and most treatment services in facilities are geared toward helping older teens.
"So it's a wake up call for us to think developmentally how would we work with these young people and 12 year olds shouldn't be with 16 year olds either."
Charlesworth said sometimes young people in crisis who are using drugs feel they don't need help so it is important to first reduce the shame and stigma for families seeking help and use harm reduction as a way to prevent overdose deaths.
"Harm reduction, again, is really important. Because the child, we need to join with them and then say okay if you are going to use, let's use safely. Then once we've that handled what are some of the options for you to care of yourself without using substances."
She said there is a need for residential treatment for serious addictions which can't be addressed with out-patient or outreach services.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development said in a statement that it cannot comment due to privacy restrictions but it's practice is to conduct a review of these types of cases.
Londono said she wants people to be aware of the toxicity of the drugs that are available and said every family should have a naloxone kit at home to reverse opioid overdoses.
She says kids should not be afraid to tell their parents what drugs they have done.
"They shouldn't be in fear of being punished. They should be in fear of dying."