Program for Serious Mental Health Issues in Vancouver

Mayor Kennedy Stewart said a program for people with serious mental health and addictions issues has been running in Vancouver for a year and has resulted in fewer hospital visits, calls to the police and substance abuse among participants.

The mayor said Vancouver Coastal Health has integrated services into two undisclosed city-owned buildings that include psychiatrists, psychologists and doctors.

The pilot program involves 30 beds spread over the two residences.

“The results have been remarkable,” Stewart said Tuesday. “So a lot less ER visits, a lot less calls to the police, big health improvements, stabilization, a lot less acting out, and less drug and alcohol use. So that really works.”

The mayor said the program essentially extended the care a person would receive in a hospital to where that person lives. He described the approach as “very intense home care” and said it had been working for about a year.

Stewart expects data on the program, including costs, to be shared with the public, but could not say when.

“Catch and release cycle”

The mayor discussed the program on the same day a coalition of 13 BC mayors – including Stewart – renewed their call for the BC government to provide housing and ‘complex care’ solutions. to the most vulnerable people in the province.

It is a category of people living with mental illness, serious addiction or both. Some have brain damage. Such a combination of complex needs often means that a person cannot adapt to current models of supportive housing in British Columbia and ends up homeless.

And, as the coalition pointed out in its press release, if that person commits a crime, they won’t fit into “the overburdened justice system that perpetuates a cycle of catch and release.”

Stewart estimated that “thousands” of people in Vancouver alone need care and housing.

BC Center for Disease Control data from 2015 estimated that there were 8,500 injection drug users in Vancouver. Between 2014 and 2020, Vancouver police arrested an average of 2,900 people a year under the Mental Health Act.

Stewart noted that the pilot program is a sign of hope and could be a way forward for Vancouver and other cities. That’s the reason for the renewed push for more housing and supports for people across the province with complex needs, he said.

“Not all health authorities are making this investment in the province,” the mayor said. “So really that [renewed plea] it’s saying ‘Hey, it works here. We need a lot more beds and we certainly need more health authorities to join us.

“Bad for Business”

The push by the 13 mayors in February 2021 was more focused on housing need, but shifted to include supports built into existing housing, some of which has been purchased over the past two years by cities, the provincial government , the federal government or a combination.

Stewart and other mayors have acknowledged that the campaign’s impetus is also tied to local retailers, restaurants and hotels – already hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic – who have complained of erratic behavior, open drug use , crimes and thefts occurring outside their homes. work.

Broken windows in businesses in downtown Vancouver are common. Police Chief Adam Palmer also called out an increase in random assaults on people and aggressive shoplifters.

“When you see someone on the street, there are sort of two reactions in the city – one is the compassionate side that says you have to help that person,” Stewart said.

“The other is that this person is bad for business. I am definitely in the first category. But in the end, whatever reason you have for wanting to change, the solution is the same, and I think the solution is complex support.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said renewed advocacy for solutions underscores the urgent need to fund programs and housing. Helps and other mayors have met regularly with Attorney General David Eby, who is responsible for housing, and Sheila Malcolmson, BC Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, to share their concerns.

“We know there’s funding in the 2021-22 budget because Minister Malcolmson called us right after the budget and said, ‘Don’t worry, we know you haven’t seen complex care specified in there, but that’s in the event,'” she said.

“It’s been almost a year since our initial call, and we’re just making this final push by just saying please make this announcement. And please ensure the solutions are implemented across urban BC.

The non-partisan group of mayors come from Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, New Westminster, Prince George, Richmond, Saanich, Surrey, Vancouver and Victoria.

The Minister will make an announcement next week

Malcolmson said Vancouver is awesome in an emailed statement that it plans to announce the “initial phase of complex care housing” in British Columbia next week. The minister said the mayors had done “good work on this critical issue” and she was grateful for their advice.

“The most vulnerable people in our communities – those with the most complex health, mental health and addictions issues – need a level of support that goes beyond what the current housing model with support services can provide,” Malcolmson said.

“That is why we are acting urgently to build a one-of-a-kind complex care housing system to fill this gap. It is a priority of the Prime Minister and of my department. Complex care housing — as we’ve always said — will be phased in across the province and is an important step in building the mental health and addictions care system people need.


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