03/05/2013 08:39 EST | Updated 05/05/2013 05:12 EDT

B.C. Family Fights For Children's Mental Health

More than 20,000 people have signed a petition started by a Vancouver Island family asking the government to provide better emergency mental health care to children and youth.

The Bradley family says their 11-year-old daughter, who suffers from bipolar disorder, has been refused treatment at Victoria General Hospital.

Kelly Bradley said her daughter was taken to the hospital three times when her behaviour was out of control in January.

The first time, her daughter was kept in hospital for four days, but the following two times, the hospital sent her home, she said.

Bradley believes hospital pediatric wards don't have the staff to properly assess or treat mentally ill youth.

"There is a psych nurse on call and then there's a psychiatrist that's there part time," she said.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) denies refusing treatment to Bradley's daughter, but is promising better service for mentally ill youth in the future.

Executive director of VIHA Mental Health and Addiction Services Dr. Richard Crowe said within the next month, mental health nurses will be staffing emergency wards for assessments from 8 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

According to Crowe, seven more psychiatrists will join Victoria General Hospital, providing 24/7 hospital care for youth psychiatric cases.

"Why we're enhancing all of these services is there is a significant increase in presentations to our emergency departments and to our wards over the last number of years," he said.

Crowe said he's also working on a plan to increase the number of treatment beds at Ledger House, Vancouver Island's only youth psychiatric facility.