'She couldn't get the help she needed'

Barb Sweet
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'She couldn't get the help she needed'

Chrissy Pearce cried out for help and should not have died, says St. John's South-Mount Pearl NDP MP Ryan Cleary.

"She is dead, dead because she couldn't get the help she needed," Cleary said Friday.

Pearce, who suffered severe alcoholism, and her boyfriend walked into his office last fall and staff spent the day on the file, approaching top officials at Eastern Health as well as provincial officials, he said.

She did get into the Short Term Assessment and Referral Treatment (START) mental health and addictions program operated by Eastern Health at St. Clare's Hospital in St. John's.

But it was not the longterm, intensive help she needed.

Pearce got into detox on April 20, after trying all week. She discharged herself that night and died the next day.

"The help wasn't there," Cleary said. "I don't think the province has the capability to deal with addictions and mental health issues."

This week Eastern Health announced a contract has been awarded for the planning of the residential addictions treatment centre that will eventually open in Harbour Grace. Planning for the facility and its services will take place over the next 2 1/2 years.

But Eastern Health noted the Department of Health and Community Services already has an arrangement with Homewood Health Centre Inc. of Guelph, Ont., when referring adults with mental health and/or addiction problems out-of-province for treatment.

Pearce's boyfriend, Dean Cantwell, was incredulous when The Telegram told him that Friday.

"Wow," he said.

"She should have been sent out," Cleary also said in a telephone interview Friday.

The federal MP noted the provincial government has the responsibility for delivering health care.

"Is the province taking the resources and distributing them where they need to go? That's the question," he said.

Cleary said he doesn't have the answers to fix the system, but he said, "When people cry for help we have a problem.

"This lady is dead. Should she be dead? No way."

Meanwhile, with a nearly two-year wait list for methadone treatment, Cleary's office is also working to get her drug-addicted brother back on methadone. There are more than 140 people on the wait list, he said.

"This has to be dealt with before more people die," Cleary said.

In a response to a number of questions, Eastern Health, in a lengthy statement, told The Telegram the Recovery Centre in Pleasantville is voluntary, so clients can discharge themselves at any time.

However, Eastern Health said if staff believe there are safety concerns, they could call the patient's family or possibly the police.

There are only four of 19 beds in the facility for women, but Eastern Health insists the demand mostly comes from men.

Eastern Health said its mental health and addictions program routinely investigates cases that would have involved recently discharged clients that committed suicide or experienced a sudden death, to identify areas for quality improvement for programs and services.

But Eastern Health would not speak to specifics and would not say whether a review will take place in Pearce's case.

As for medications that don't mix with alcohol being prescribed to people like Pearce, Eastern Health said that's up to the doctor, based on circumstances and it's not unusual to prescribe anti-anxiety medications for certain clients.

Some are even prescribed to help alleviate a client's symptoms from alcohol withdrawal, Eastern Health said.

As for sending patients out of province, Eastern Health said an assessment would have to be done on a patient deemed to have complex substance abuse issues.

But Cantwell said that option was never offered Pearce.

According to the Department of Health and Community Services, the province has spent $2 million for 109 adults to receive out-of-province addictions treatment in the past five years.


Organizations: Department of Health and Community, The Telegram, Homewood Health Centre Inc. of Guelph Recovery Centre

Geographic location: Clare, St. John's, Harbour Grace Pleasantville

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Recent comments

  • A Mother
    May 07, 2012 - 07:36

    My heart breaks for Chrissy and her family, i have a child that has a drug addiction,she was on Methadone and was kicked off it cold turkey, went from 80 mg to 0mg in a day, she had no choice to go back on the oxi's after this or buy her methadone of the streets, i as a mother had contacted every source out there that i could hoping to get her help, i placed her on waiting list for the program again and one doctor tells no, sry ma'am you will have to find another source i will not accept a patient that had been kicked off, this is 14 months after me placing her on his list, all these dr's are in with one another, they are well aware it is being sold on the street along with their patients using someone elses urine, finally i found the help i needed for her, it was a long hard road but i done it with no help from any of these people that are there to supposedly help, i have watched my child be suicidal, suffer, distraught etc.

    • another mother
      May 07, 2012 - 09:32

      replying to Mother's comments, Good for you, i sure wish i could get the help i need for my son, he has been to detox 2 times and still craves the pills, 6 days doesnt cut it, then he is released and 2-3 days back on the pills, he also has been kicked off methadone, i am at my wits end, so scared im gonna recieve that call one day that he had overdosed or committed suicide, i have been trying for months to get him back on the methadone but there is a long long list, all us desperate mothers and concerned family members and friends need to get together and take our issues to govt, someone out there has to help us, i pray for all users every night, and i feel the good lord is listening, just wish i could get help for my boy, i know at least 15 kids that is beyond destruction because they cant get the help they so desperately need, and my question is this, why why would a dr kick someone off methadone, yes he slipped up, but kicking them off the program dont help, maybe we need to take these dr's to the board and find us a good lawyer and sue.

  • shirley ryan
    May 06, 2012 - 10:57

    I know Dean and his family very well, very down to earth people, but I guess that do not count when you ain't part of the rich and elite, if this was dunderdales child or harpers or any one the government thought was of importance, something would have been done, just like zachery turner, his murderer mother was judged by her rank in society, just like burton winters, again judged by his rank in society and now this poor young woman, who is considered as they put it a dirty crack head or druggie, was judged , because the harper government and all their politicians like to line their own pockets, do as little to get more for themselves, where is the peoples democracy government that we voted you in at? not here in newfoundland and labrador thats for sure, my condolences to the family and friends and to Dean and those two motherless children, way to go government way to go, hats off to a couple of more that may need to be depended on you the government, by all abused, confused and refused people of our beautiful province, keep showing your true colors as snakes shed their skin but their colors always remain the same

  • Ryan
    May 06, 2012 - 09:28

    Its a sad story for sure too many people are out their suffering from addiction and loosing a life because our health care system is crap...I was on methadone and it changed my life but that is not always the answer either you would not believe how many people are abusing it when i was their im off it now but i would hear people their buying drugs and getting other people to do urine for tests for them, not to mention doing drugs that are undetectable in urine tests...it is horible to have a 2 year wait list i know their are only 3 doctors here that offer methadone but its being abused and legitimate people have to wait 2 years, alot can happen minds change people change. I hope the gov looks into this death as a tragedy and fixes the many problems with drug and addiction..

  • Genevieve
    May 05, 2012 - 23:04

    What eastern health is failing to tell the public is that after all other treatment which includes detox, humberhood, and follow up councilling has been exhausted by patient then and only then will they consider an application for out of province care, I know this because my addictive child's application was rejected.. in the last 5 years they have sent only less than 22 people for out of province care per year, if their calculations are correct!! So 5 years ago the province knew we didn't have the faciltiy to care for addicts, now they wait another 2 1/2 years before a facility is built, and 2 years for methadone treatment... So yes Cleary more people will die in this province from alcohol and drug addiction. Because I'm sure their quota is up for out of province care already this year

  • Genvieve
    May 05, 2012 - 19:39

    Eastern health is full of it my addictive child suffers from multiple drug dependencies as well as multiple mental issues eastern Heath with no help of her psychiatrist denied her application and what eastern health is basically saying is that more people have to die so they can figure out treatment wtf is that? Dean don't listen to them I feel your pain it's maddening dealing with these people there only trying to cover their own asses for the media

  • jaydee
    May 05, 2012 - 15:29

    Such a sad story. We need more facilities to deal with people with addictions Come on province......lets get moving and save our people who have problems. I didn't know you but your story touched my heart. RIP Chrissy.

  • lana cantwell steeples
    May 05, 2012 - 13:50

    I would like to first say how incredibly proud I am of my brother Dean for his never failing support of chrissy in the years they were together. he was there day and night. unfortunately this failing system has caused the spouse and family members of addict to be the only voice in their fight.so not only do they fail the patient but everyone who are fighting for them to live a healthy life. unfortunately two amazing girls have lost their mom in this tragedy ! She should have never have died. Chrissy and dean were literally begging health care professionals for help!! What more can a person do. If she were treated with humanity and respect just like any other patient walking through the door she would have received the life saving treatment she needed, the same as a cancer patient or anyone else with any other type of deases . it is a sad commentary on how they view people with addiction , somehow less than any other sick person. my heart is broken for my brother , her daughters and family and friends who have to live a life without her. lets help them fight for her now and bring change, so no one else has to feel the deep tragic loss of a beautiful young life . thank you for submitting lana cantwell steeples

  • Amanda
    May 05, 2012 - 09:54

    A 2 year wait list for methadone treatment and 140 people on the waiting list? That should never be. Clearly this province needs more facilities and what have you to be able to help those people who want help. One more being built in 2 years time isn't enough.

  • Christa
    May 05, 2012 - 09:28

    Thanks you to whom ever made this story possible (Dean mostly)I am taking Chrissy's death VERY hard because I know she didn't want to die, she didn't want to be sick, she WANTED and NEEDED help;.and even with the amazing support system Chrissy had; said support just wasn't enough when (she) is sick with addiction. And the freakin' heath system failed her big time, and I am po'ed. We all are. It is absolutely disgusting how easy it is to get hooked on drugs here in NL. Why? (2 main reasons) 1) Ignorant; lazy doctors who won't do their job and just fork over the those fancy green narcotic prescription slips just to get the patient out of their office so they can get more patient$ ($ ;) 2) You can DOUBLE, triple even quadruple doctor if you really wanted to. In order to get their supply for selling and to abuse, a lot of people do this. TOO many. In Ontario it's 100% impossible to have a second doctor. Why is it so easy here in NL? Are we THAT behind? or just ignorant? Makes me sick. I lived in Ontario for 14 years, ONTARIO! and I never seen so many drug addicts (and/or recovering addicts) as I do in Newfoundland now that I am back "home." I am almost embarrassed to BE home actually. This place has gone to hell in a hand basket because of booze and drugs (mostly) know. And to all the people out there who judge and poke fun at that "crack head" or "booze hound" you know , remember Chrissy, and think! MOST of these so called "dirty addicts" DO NOT want to be sick, and do what they do. Just like Chrissy, they feel/felt they have no where to go to get off those drugs or the bottle...so they just continue to deal with living in addiction so they can just deal with life without pain because help will never come. And that is pretty darn scary, sad and makes me infuriated with NL. SMARTEN UP NL..or I'm out of here; again. You took one of my darest friends..I have nothing much left to stay here in NL for anyhow. Peace! LOVE YOU Chrissy. I am so sorry no one (professional) listened my babe. XO