B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced Tuesday a new mental health facility will be built at Vancouver General Hospital, replacing the existing 70-year-old building.

"Mental illness takes a terrible toll on not just the patient, but on their entire family as well," said Clark. "This new centre will help many of those families to cope as their loved one goes through the recovery process."

The new facility will replace the existing building, which is slated for demolition.

CBC News reported in September that the families of patients complained the psychiatric facility was decrepit and overcrowded, and raised the alarm about a lack of security.

The director of mental health services for the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority confirmed the building was falling apart, and said renovations were no longer viable.

Clark said Tuesday it would take approximately three years to design and build the facility once the business plan and scope are finalized.

Good news for patients, families

"I'd like to thank the provincial government for today's announcement that we are moving ahead with planning for a new mental centre at VGH," said Vancouver Coastal Health CEO and president Dr. David Ostrow.

"This is definitely good news for patients and their families."


Asbestos in the walls of the existing 70-year-old building makes repairs costly and difficult, and is a health concern for staff. (CBC)

The facility will also consolidate mental-health inpatient and outpatient services.

"This facility will provide adults with severe and debilitating mental illnesses with the specialized care and support they need," said Laura Case, director of mental health and addictions in Vancouver.

"A specialized centre like this will not only improve the patient experience and, as a result, their outcome but will also be a vital resource for mental-health professionals across British Columbia."

The new mental health centre is expected to cost about $73 million, but the province says that number could change as the business plan is finalized. The province is contributing $48 million, while the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation and its corporate and private donors have committed $25 million.

Another $12 million will be contributed by philanthropists Joseph and Rosalie Segal, one of the largest-ever personal gifts for mental health in Canada.

"Not only does mental health affect the person who has the disease; it also impacts friends, family members, businesses and the community as well," said Joseph Segal.

"Rosalie and I are pleased that plans for the centre are now moving ahead. Our province needs this."

Segal criticized the province last year for moving too slowly on the project despite his donation.