B.C. invests $20M to help mentally ill drug addicts
Outreach teams to serve people in Vancouver's impoverished Downtown Eastside
The B.C. government has released a plan to help some of the most difficult patients to support, those with both a mental illness and a severe drug addiction.
Health Minister Terry Lake announced the $20 million program that includes a new psychiatric assessment and stabilization unit at Vancouver's St. Paul's Hospital.
Lake said the program also includes the creation of outreach teams to serve people in the impoverished Downtown Eastside, an investment in services for homeless youth, five new group homes and a new six-bed inpatient facility.
"That would be the ultimate goal — to take every patient, provide the intense case management they require," said Lake.
"So they can graduate through a system of continuing care, to [a point] where they are living more independently in community."
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson welcomes the province's steps, saying random attacks, police calls and ER visits that involve those with severe mental illnesses has skyrocketed in recent years.
"The stories that I've seen over the past five years and the stats we've grappled with have been very troubling at the least," said Robertson.
"The ER visits, the police calls related to mental illness, the tragic events and random attacks involving patients and the general public have been very disturbing."
The announcement comes two months after Robertson and Vancouver's police Chief Jim Chu appealed to the province for help to curb what they said was a mental health crisis on the city's streets.
Chu said 21 per cent of Vancouver police's calls involve someone who is mentally ill, and St. Paul's Hospital has seen a 43 per cent spike over three years in patients with severe mental health or addictions problems.
With files from CBC's Bal Brach