The death last December of young South Surrey man Zachary Plett in a North Surrey recovery home – as well as that of a second man at a related facility nine days later – did not specifically influence changes announced this week to regulations governing B.C. recovery homes.
However, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy said the changes “certainly speak to the issues that arose in those deaths – there’s no doubt about that.”
In responding to questions from Peace Arch News Friday morning, Darcy noted the two deaths were not the first that have occurred “in these kinds of circumstances” – a reference to facility conditions that have been described as deplorable, and the fact that both deaths went unnoticed for a shocking amount of time; in Plett’s case, at least four hours.
“But they speak to the issue of safety, accountability, having a clear plan for every patient, overdose prevention,” she said.
“An overdose prevention plan should not just mean having a naloxone kit. It should mean that there are checks on residents on a regular basis; that if residents are not coming to the programs that are offered in the recovery home, that staff know about it and they check up on those people.
“There are many ways that these regulations will assist in preventing those kinds of tragedies – many kinds of tragedies – in the future.”
Plett, 21, died at a Step by Step recovery home on Dec. 15. His actual time of death has been pinpointed at between 9 a.m. and noon, however, it went seemingly unnoticed until about 4 p.m., when he was found face-down in a bed his mom, Maggie Plett, saw later the same day was fitted with mouldy sheets.
The Step by Step location was among two of five operating in the city under the same name to close last month; a move city officials say was a voluntary one by the operator.
Darcy responded to PAN’s questions during a media event Friday with Minister of Social Development and Poverty Shane Simpson at Trilogy House One, in the 13500-block of 80 Avenue.
Simpson announced increases to per diem funding for registered homes – the first in a decade – will take effect Oct. 1.
Rates for registered mental health and substance use homes will increase from $30.90 to $35.90 per day, rates for licensed mental health homes will increase from $30.90 to $45 per day, and rates for licensed substance use homes will increase from $40 to $45 per day.
Following the media event, Simpson – who, after learning in June of Plett’s death, told PAN he was “interested to better understand what happened there” – confirmed to PAN that he has “inquired and asked for more information.”
He did not have an update on the status of any review underway regarding the tragedy, but did note the case was “complicated.”
Friday’s announcement was the second of two this week regarding improvements that are anticipated will boost safety and quality of care in regulated B.C. recovery homes.
On Wednesday, Darcy joined Minister of Health Adrian Dix at Last Door Recovery Society in New Westminster to share changes that would be taking effect Dec. 1, including that of requirements around proper training for recovery home staff.
Following that announcement, Maggie Plett described the changes as “a step in the right direction,” but said she was also disappointed the government wasn’t moving quicker to enact the changes.
Friday, Darcy explained the Dec. 1 effective date was “to make sure operators are in a position to act on the regulations.”
“Everything that’s in the regulations, they’re going to need to be able to enforce,” she said. “They need some time to do that, and they need some money and the ability to train staff.”
Regarding enforcement, Darcy said once in effect, the new rules will enable action to be taken “immediately” after an issue is identified or a complaint laid. Currently – and continuing until Dec. 1 – it can take up to 30 days, and written notice is required, before steps can be taken.