Horizon Health to review what happened the day teen sought mental health help at Fredericton ER
HALIFAX -- New Brunswick's largest health network says it will review what happened the day 16-year-old Lexi Daken waited in an emergency room for over eight hours to see a psychiatrist – and never saw one.
Daken died by suicide on Wednesday.
Her family believes had she gotten the help she needed at the hospital E.R. when she went with her guidance counsellor on Feb. 18 – she'd still be alive today.
In a statement, Jean Daigle, a vice-president at Horizon Health Network, called the situation "nothing short of a tragedy."
"As with other matters of this nature, Horizon will be reviewing our internal processes to determine where improvements could have been made," Daigle said. "Horizon’s Emergency Departments are a team-based environment, where a wide array of clinical specialities come together to provide care, including psychiatric nurses and psychiatrists."
He followed saying Horizon provides on-call psychiatric services 24 hours, seven days a week.
But according to her father, the day Lexi waited in the Everett Chalmers Hospital emergency room, she was finally asked if she wanted the hospital to call in the on-call psychiatrist after waiting 8 hours. But, he believes "they didn’t want to call him in after hours."
"What they told us at the time is we'll send off a referral to mental health and you should hear from them in two weeks," Chris Daken said in an interview with CTV Atlantic on Thursday. "I can say, we haven’t had anything from the province."
Daken says his daughter felt like a burden. She took her own life just days later.
The tragedy has sparked community anger, demanding change to the mental health system.
While she wouldn't do an interview with CTV, the health minister said in a statement: "Anyone who has taken a loved one to the hospital for help and left feeling hopeless can commiserate with the pain this family is experiencing."
"We must recognize that every day we leave a system in place that does not speak to the needs of our people, we lose an opportunity to heal," Dorothy Shephard said in the statement. "It is time to fix this broken system and truly address the needs of all New Brunswickers."
Earlier this week, Shephard released a five-year mental health and addiction plan, that included the intention of improving access to immediate counselling services.
The family's MLA, Kris Austin, says the plan is admirable, but Lexi's story proves it's not happening soon enough.
"My concern is, when these things happen, the emotions there, everybody's engaged and they're heartbroken, they're angry, they're frustrated. Sometimes that emotion leads to change, and then other times when the emotion dies down, the issue just seems to fade away. That's what we've got to be vigilant about," Austin told CTV.
While there's a shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists, Austin believes the province should fill some of the gaps with others in the sector, like counsellors.
Christa Baldwin with the N.B. chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association says wait times for mental health services depends on the region of the province you live in.
"Recently we are hearing from different people who are having different struggles and they are being offered wait lists of six to 12 to 18 months for service," she said. "Going to receive service, having your name on a waitlist, there are other things that can happen in the interim…there are many programs and services we can offer while you are waiting for that formal service in that acute setting."
According to the N.B. Health Council, over 60 per cent of youth in the Fredericton region do not get help within 30 days of the initial referral.
There is a candlelight vigil planned in Lexi's memory for Sunday. A GoFundMe fundraiser has raised over $9,000 for the family.
The superintendent of the school district where Lexi attended high school said the community has "experienced a loss that has affected us deeply."
"As part of our support plan, we have a team of staff from the school and the district, who are providing additional counselling and support to students and teachers," said David McTimoney in email to CTV. "Parents have received information from the school on how to work through loss with their children."
"We know that times like this can be extremely difficult, and in the days ahead we will continue to be available to the those who need support," McTimoney added.
Resources are available across New Brunswick through Horizon Health for anyone struggling with mental health concerns.