British Columbia

Housing alone can't solve complex mental health and addiction cases, advocate says

Parents of a Kamloops, B.C., man with schizophrenia blame neglect for the recent amputation of his arm, but the operator of his supportive housing program says people with serious mental illnesses and addiction can't find adequate treatment in the province.

Some people 'can't respond' to supportive housing without treatment, says ASK Wellness director

Adam Braaten, 31, had most of his arm amputated after apparent drug use left him passed out on his arm for days at a supportive housing facility in Kamloops, located in B.C.'s southern Interior. (Jesse Braaten)

Parents of a Kamloops, B.C., man with schizophrenia blame neglect for the recent amputation of his arm, but the operator of his supportive housing program says people with complicated mental illnesses and addiction can't find adequate treatment in the province.

Adam Braaten was living in Mission Flats Manor, a supportive housing complex in Kamloops, when he passed out from apparent drug use, landing on his arm and staying there for at least two days. When he was finally found, there was no circulation in his arm and it had to be amputated. 

Braaten, 31, who has schizophrenia and is addicted to crystal meth, spent a brief time living on the streets of Kamloops, according to his parents, Tammy Harkies and Ron Braaten. 

"He's in a mess right now," Ron said. 

When Adam Braaten moved into his suite  one year ago at Mission Flats Manor, run by local housing advocacy organization ASK Wellness, he told his mom he loved it there and wanted to "live there forever."

But she and Braaten's father say the organization — and the system — failed their family by not checking on him after repeated calls to the manor's main office asking them to knock on Braaten's door. 

ASK Wellness executive director Bob Hughes said that while he can't comment on this specific incident, ASK Wellness tries to check on residents each day, though sometimes there is no answer.

Mission Flats Manor in Kamloops, B.C., is run by ASK Wellness Society, a non-profit organization that receives funding from local and provincial governments and community donations. (Jenifer Norwell / CBC)

Complex individuals need other options

Not all people in supportive housing are successful because they have complex problems that social agencies are not equipped to deal with, Hughes says.

"Some people just won't and can't respond to this approach where they're exposed to substances where it's at their discretion as to what they want to do," Hughes told Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce.

"What we're struggling with is those individuals that are so acutely ill and the hospitals are not taking them," Hughes said.

"People who use methamphetamine and have a psychiatric issue don't have a place that will work."

The parents of Adam Braaten, pictured, are uncertain what the future holds for their son who has schizophrenia, is addicted to illicit drugs and has recently had part of his arm amputated. (Tammy Harkies)

For this reason, Hughes said more robust recovery programs and services outside of supportive housing and mental health treatment need to be created through government policies, including "adjudicating or mandating people to save their lives and support families that are in torment with their kids being left to try to fend for themselves.

"I'm hopeful about it, but I think that there's a real siren call to get some adequate supports for people who are really, really unwell."

In an emailed statement, B.C.'s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions agreed that while supportive housing works for many, those with complex needs require alternative options. 

"We've heard first-hand from people with lived experience, families and frontline healthcare providers that the need for higher levels of mental health and addiction care continues to grow and we're working as fast as we can to address this gap," the ministry said. 

Hear the full interview with Bob Hughes below: 

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