B.C. mom calls on doctors to let parents help their addicted kids

Report that says parents are overlooked in treating substance abuse reflects mother’s experience

Izzy Bailey was only 21 years old when she fatally overdosed in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. (Rhonda Dent photo)

A B.C. woman whose daughter died of a drug overdose is calling on the province to better involve family in addiction treatment.

Deborah Bailey spent many frustrating years trying to get proper treatment for her adopted daughter, Izzy, before she died just before Christmas in 2015.

Izzy overdosed four times in the year before her death. Bailey was never told about those, however, because her daughter was legally an adult.

“She may have been 21, but maturity-wise, she was more like a 14-year-old,” the Vancouver woman said. “She was a little gal we adopted, so she had alcohol-related brain [issues].”

Both Izzy’s biological parents had struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, including when the mother was pregnant with Izzy, leading to the girl having problems with impulse control and understanding consequences.

When Izzy told doctors she wanted her family involved in her care, Bailey said the doctors didn’t listen.

“Often it’s cited as privacy and confidentiality between the doctor and the patient, but we are that child’s or that young adult’s greatest supporter and often have information that the doctors don’t have,” she said.

“I would take her to appointments, so I’d be sitting in the waiting room and often not be invited in.”

A BC Centre on Substance Use report released Wednesday found that doctors often pushed parents and relatives of addiction patients away.

“Although families of all descriptions are an extremely valuable resource in a person’s addiction care and recovery, they are too often overlooked in substance use service planning,” the report said.

There is no framework to get them involved in the care, the document read, and privacy laws can stop doctors from being proactive.

READ: Cracks loom large for parents of at-risk youth

It recommended building teams of healthcare professionals and case workers to liaise with families to get the best care for the patients.

Izzy was found dead in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on Dec. 22, 2015, the result of a fentanyl overdose that Bailey thinks could have been prevented if she had been allowed to take home the medication Suboxone.

“At that time, Suboxone carries – being able to take it home with you – was much more difficult to get,” said Bailey.

“I told her doctor that ‘I’m just trying to keep my kid alive here’ and he just shrugged at us and would not allow the Suboxone carries.”

Bailey was occasionally able to get a prescription for Izzy to take home Suboxone, but she said Izzy’s addictions specialist would repeatedly take her off the medication without Bailey knowing the reason, forcing her daughter to go to the pharmacy to get her daily dose.

“She overdosed because she couldn’t get there,” Bailey said. “She was cooperative about being on Suboxone but she was also addicted.”


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