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IWK Health Centre refused to admit teen with mental health problems, mother says

06/08/2015 11:51 EDT | Updated 06/08/2016 05:59 EDT
A Nova Scotia family is speaking out after they were turned away by a children's hospital after seeking mental health care for their teen daughter. 

Not only did Halifax's IWK Health Centre refuse to admit 14-year-old Lily Morinville — she was then arrested after being kicked out by security. 

Vicky and Sylvain Morinville have a busy home, with seven children and five grandchildren.

Their daughter Lily has a number of developmental disabilities. In the last few months her parents say she's become aggressive with them and the other children.

"She will pinch, she will hit, she will slap, she will shove, push us," said Vicky Morinville.

On Sunday night things came to a head and the family took Lily to the IWK Health Centre, which is known for its mental health wing for young people. But Lily was turned away.

"[She was] deemed not a risk to herself or anyone else, and so I was told that I could take her home — that I needed to take her home," her mother said. 

As she tried to convince her daughter to come home, Lily ran back inside and was removed by security.

Family friend Amy Spurway, who arrived at one point to help handle Lily, said the family feared she would hurt herself or others.

"We realized that we couldn't leave the IWK, because it was absolutely not safe to try and take Lily home. This family could not go another day with Lily in this state. She was posing a pretty clear danger to herself and the people around her," said Spurway.

'Acting in a violent manner'

A bystander and security then called the police, who arrested Lily for breaching the peace.

Const. Pierre Bourdages, spokesman for the Halifax Regional Police, said the girl was "acting in a violent manner" and had assaulted officers.

Officers kept Lily under observation at the police station, and according to Bourdages became "concern[ed] that this young lady may be a danger to herself." 

She was re-arrested under the Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act around 10 p.m. Sunday and taken back to the IWK for reassessment. She was finally admitted on Monday, a little less than 24 hours after first going to the emergency room. 

Bourdages said there are no pending charges.

Receiving care

The Morinvilles are speaking out in hope of helping other families who face what they say are system-wide difficulties of getting mental health care for teenagers.  

"You can't be turned down just because somebody thinks it's just a four-year-old behaviour pattern," said Sylvain Morinville.

Lily remains at the hospital, but the family knows her ordeal is not over yet. 

"She's certainly receiving appropriate care at this point, but for to her to have to have gone through what she's gone through to receive that care? It shouldn't be happening," her mother said.  

IWK spokesman Nick Cox said that specific information about a patient is never discussed in public, and that providing excellent patient care is the hospital's top priority. 

Cox said emergency room patients are seen by "physicians and/or mental health clinicians" and that, after an assessment, "the most appropriate treatment plans are discussed with the patient and family members."

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