Cities target gaps in care for mentally ill

Reopening Riverview Hospital among proposals for UBCM

The issue of mental illness being pushed onto the provincial stage at the Sept. 16-20 Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

The issue of mental illness being pushed onto the provincial stage at the Sept. 16-20 Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

Several Metro Vancouver cities are criticizing the provincial government for mishandling care of the mentally ill and some are going so far as to suggest reopening the closed Riverview psychiatric hospital.

The issue is being pushed onto the provincial stage at the Sept. 16-20 Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, where multiple resolutions will target inadequate psychiatric care and the knock-on effects for policing and other services.

Maple Ridge council is behind the suggested reinstatement of Riverview Hospital, in Coquitlam, as a “modern centre of excellence” for mental health care and support since it has the necessary infrastructure and a long history.

Its resolution argues inadequate treatment and housing for those with mental illness that followed the provincial policy shift from institutional to community care has led to “unacceptably poor outcomes” for B.C.’s neediest citizens and severe financial and social burdens for local cities.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson supports the concept, provided it’s a fully modern incarnation of Riverview and checks and balances are in place to protect patients.

It’s time the issue gets a serious airing, she said.

“There’s no place to house people to help them get well and get them back to a productive place in society,” Jackson said. “Everybody talks around it in the Lower Mainland but nobody seems to do anything about assisting these people.”

Jackson said a catalyst for her community came in recent years when police took a young North Delta man to Surrey Memorial Hospital. He was later released and went directly to the Alex Fraser Bridge, climbed the railing and jumped.

She said it makes no sense to her that in most cases there’s nothing that can apparently be done but to release a mental health patient back to the community.

Delta council has also advanced a resolution to UBCM calling on the province to revamp the intake of mental health patients and set up secure holding facilities with trained guards.

Jackson said the aim would be to reduce the time police officers spend waiting in hospital for staff there to take over responsibility for a patient they’ve brought.

“It can sometimes be one and a half or two hours depending on what’s going on at the hospital emergency at the time,” she said. “That takes our officers off the road when they be needed somewhere else.”

Another Delta resolution would call for the creation by senior governments of early intervention centres to house mental health or addictions patients who a doctor decides may be a risk to themselves or others.

The province says hundreds of mental health beds and other community supports have opened over the years but civic leaders contend it’s not enough and their police increasingly deal with those patients instead of other crime.

One of the problems is that, left on their own, people with the most severe mental illnesses don’t seek out care and often end up addicted through self-medication.

Coquitlam Coun. Craig Hodge said he hopes support from UBCM for the Riverview resolution might spur the province to shift its approach on the future of the 244-acre Riverview lands.

Riverview was closed in 2012 after a gradual shutdown over 10 years, with the goal of moving people back to their own community for mental health care.

Grass is no longer cut and the buildings are being minimally maintained.

Fraser Health still manages three facilities on Riverview for people needing specialized services.

And the health authority has a new Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team, which works specifically with people needing the highest level of care who won’t go to clinics.

But Riverview continues to be viewed as a central and ideal location for more services, and Hodge said he believes some of the newer buildings, such as Valleyview, which was shut down last year, could be re-purposed as a short-term solution for those with the highest need.

“There are people on our streets or out of sight that are not getting the care that they need,” Hodge said, suggesting that, perhaps the move towards de-institutionalization went too far.

No long-term plan has yet been released for Riverview and speculation is rife on the property’s future.

In an exchange in the legislature this summer, new Coquitlam-Maillardville NDP MLA Selina Robinson asked Housing Minister Rich Coleman for assurance the property wouldn’t be parcelled off and sold.

Coleman responded that the province sees the property as a “long-term asset” for health care, mental health, addictions and other opportunities to help people in B.C. but wouldn’t be specific as to the future plans.

– with files from Diane Strandberg / Tri-City News

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fire crews battle a large wildfire north of Highway 1 east of the Yale Road West exit on Thursday, April 15, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Firefighters battle wildfire in Chilliwack near Hwy 1

Helicopter dropping water on large wildfire in Chilliwack near Yale Road West exit, north of highway

web
Fire breaks out inside Mission Walmart

Customers, staff evacuated as firefighters investigate

Japanese Canadian citizens being transferred into waiting trucks outside Hope Station House. NNMCC L2021-2-1-004. Photographs courtesy of the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre
Fight continues for historic Hope Station House

Ombudsman report and stop work order come alongside district’s move to remove heritage status

Lift equipment is driven away from a fire in an adjacent unit on Industrial Way in Chilliwack on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack firefighters deal with heavy smoke, extreme heat in challenging industrial fire

Crews successful in containing fire to 1 unit in industrial building, adjacent units suffer smoke damage

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Dr. Bonnie Henry – in a B.C. health order that went into effect April 12 – granted WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce workplace closures with COVID-19 spread. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
24 workplace closures being enforced in Fraser Health under new COVID-19 order

WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce closures if COVID-19 has spread to 3 or more employees

Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue were conducting training operations at Gold Creek Falls when a firefighter broke their leg. (Eileen Robinson photo - Special to The News)
Firefighter suffers broken leg during swift water rescue practice in Golden Ears park

A training exercise at Maple Ridge waterfall on Wedesday results in mishap

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Most Read