Opposiition leader Rich Coleman speaks to Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver Sept. 28, 2017. (UBCM)

Coleman calls for courage on mental illness

Local politicians must risk defeat for supportive housing

Opposition leader Rich Coleman used his first and likely only speech at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention to urge local governments to face “the eye of the storm” and move ahead with more supportive housing for people with mental illness and addictions.

Speaking to the convention in Vancouver Thursday, Coleman related the story of former Nanaimo mayor Gary Korpan, who was in office when Coleman first took over the provincial housing file in 2004 and began a 15-year push to expand services.

Korpan told his council to “step up” and identify five sites to house mentally addicted people, Coleman said, facing the hundreds of angry people who descend on every public hearing for those kinds of services in communities across the province.

Those five sites are built today,” Coleman said. “Gary lost the next election, because he stood up for what he thought was important.”

Over the next dozen years, Coleman would carry on a push to expand supportive housing through every ministry he held, from forests to public safety to natural gas development. His program included building shelters and buying up hotels and motels from Vancouver’s downtown east side to the B.C. northwest, to convert to facilities for the hardest-to-house people in society.

By the end of his term in government, B.C. is spending $2.8 billion a year across ministries to support mental health and addiction treatment.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s supportive housing or treatment for mental health and addictions, whether it’s therapeutic communities, whether it’s a 28-day program, we need to come to grips as a society to make sure those services continue for people and can be improved upon as we go forward,” Coleman said, receiving warm applause from UBCM delegates.

Coleman described visiting the Baldy Hughes therapeutic community near Prince George, and speaking with a 21-year-old aboriginal youth who had been there to recover in a drug and alcohol-free environment. He had started sniffing glue at age 12.

“He told me when I sat and talked with him that for the first time in his life, after a year, he could actually use the word love,” Coleman said. “He said, ‘I didn’t know I could actually like myself’.”

Coleman told delegates they need to consider extreme measures for extreme cases.

“Some of those solutions may be therapeutic,” he said. “Some may be almost like state care for people who just can’t get there, whose mental health and the issues that they’ve had in life are so huge for them that they don’t have the ability to get there.”

Just Posted

Nearly 25,000 people cast ballots in Chilliwack

Turnout 10,000 votes higher than in 2014

Every vote counts: 10 tightest races in B.C.’s municipal elections

Peachland saw their election decided by just one vote

Anti-SOGI Chilliwack school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Barry Neufeld says Glen Hansman’s words caused him “indignity,” “personal harassment,” and “anxiety”

Fraser Valley Labour Council endorses four Chilliwack school board candidates

Union group endorses three for city council, pulls endorsement for mayoral hopeful Sam Waddington

Man accused of killing Belgian tourist along Highway 1 appears in court

Sean McKenzie, 27, made second court appearance since his arrest in connection with the murder of Amelie Sakkalis

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Vees notch up another win against Chilliwack

Undermanned Vees take down league-leading Chiefs

Vancouver drag queens receive royal treatment during Kootenay Pride

Vancouver drag queens discuss the importance of Pride and growing acceptance of LGBTQ community

B.C. VIEWS: Residents have had enough of catering to squatters

Media myth of homeless victims offends those who know better

B.C. man sets new Canadian marathon record at Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Cam Levins ran it in two hours nine minutes 25 seconds

B.C. Liberals’ hopes high as Nanaimo by-election approaches

Historically safe NDP seat vacated by long-time MLA Leonard Krog

Leaving B.C.’s electoral reform to a referendum is ‘ridiculous’: professor

B.C. voters getting ballots in the mail on proposal to change electoral system

Canada condemns killing of journalist in Saudi Arabia consulate in Turkey

The Saudi government claimed Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a ‘fistfight’

One year to election: Trudeau Liberals gear up for tussles on climate, premiers

Analysts say that the Liberals have reason to be ‘fairly confident’

Most Read