B.C. man faces woes accessing court-ordered treatment after suicide attempt

A Vancouver Island man who was ordered by a court to get treatment for drug and mental health problems says he can't get to the help he needs.
Kevin Edwards, 40, says he wants treatment for his addiction and mental health issues, but he just can't afford the money to get to it. ((CBC))

A Vancouver Island man who was ordered by a court to get treatment for drug and mental health problems says he can't get to the help he needs.

Last July, after struggling with drug and alcohol addiction for two decades, Kevin Edwards headed out to a quiet spot near the ferry terminal in Chemainus to end his life.

"I had a gun. I put it in my mouth. You have the apprehension — do you want to do it, you know, talking to the big guy," Edwards told CBC News.

But when he pulled the trigger, the gun jammed. So he fired two test rounds into the ground, and then called 911 for help.

When police arrived, they took him to the nearest emergency room.

"I was letting them know I was checking out. I mean, I was at wit's end. So, the next thing you know, they give me a couple Ativan and sent me off to jail," he said.

Edwards, 40, said he was given no psychiatric help or access to a rehabilitation facility, but was later convicted of firearms offences.

The court also ordered him to get treatment for his mental health and addictions problems.

"So if I don't attend these, it goes back to me facing jail time," he said.

Edwards is on probation and could go to jail for up to 10 years if he doesn't finish the programs.

But there are none in his hometown of Chemainus, between Nanaimo and Victoria, so he has to travel 20 kilometres to Duncan every day.

However, Edwards is on welfare and can't afford the $50 a month for a bus pass.

Provincial government should offer its support: MLA

Doug Routley, the NDP MLA for Cowichan-Ladysmith, said the province should be picking up the tab.

"If a person can't make it into counselling and they're at risk of being in prison because of that, then I think it's pretty clear that we're in a deficit of mental health funding," Routley said.

He said Edwards needs support to get his life back on track.

Cowichan-Ladysmith MLA Doug Routley says the provincial government should ensure citizens have access to the treatment they need. ((CBC))

"He's a very stable person now. He's living a clean life and I'm very impressed by him because [of] his fortitude, but unfortunately his effort isn't being matched by efforts from the provincial government," Routley said.

"This is a man who came to the most desperate point and made a very unfortunate decision, but now he's doing everything in his power to right that and we need to support that."

Late Friday, the provincial government told CBC News they would address Edwards's travel concerns, but said it's not standard policy for the province to pay for travel costs for treatment.

Edwards said it's one small victory on his long, but hopeful, road to recovery.