Vancouver police and mayor issue recommendations to address mental health “crisis”

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      Vancouver’s police chief and mayor have issued recommendations to address what they call a “growing crisis” of severe, untreated mental illnesses.

      According to a report released today (September 13) by the Vancouver Police Department, St. Paul’s hospital has seen a 43 percent increase in people with severe mental illness and/or addiction at its emergency department over the course of the last three years.

      Police also saw a 16 percent increase in apprehensions under the Mental Health Act between 2010 and 2012.

      “It is expected that this trend will worsen in 2013 as year-to-date apprehensions have increased by 23%,” the department states in the report.

      At a joint press conference, Mayor Gregor Robertson compared the current situation to the public health crisis in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in the 1990s due to a spike in HIV/AIDS infections.

      “It led to collaboration between different levels of government and health authorities that resulted in steady progress and has saved hundreds of lives,” he said at VPD headquarters. “We are now in a situation where there are hundreds of people with severe but untreated mental illnesses that are a high risk to both themselves and residents of the city. This is on par with, if not more serious than, what Vancouver faced over a decade ago.”

      According to the VPD, the number of violent incidents involving mentally ill people has increased, with 36 recorded this year. People suffering from mental illness are also more likely to be victims of violent crime.

      “The VPD is too often responding to emergency calls involving persons experiencing a mental health crisis,” the report reads. “Often, the behaviour is criminal which results in the arrest and prosecution of mentally ill offenders. All stakeholders must shift from responding to the crisis to preventing the crisis from occurring in the first place.”

      Robertson and police chief Jim Chu called on senior levels of government to “urgently step up” and act on the crisis.

      The five recommendations issued by the city and the police call for: 300 long-term mental health treatment beds; more staff at B.C. Housing sites to support people with psychiatric issues; a crisis centre at a Vancouver hospital for people suffering psychiatric emergencies; and the creation of joint police and Vancouver Coastal Health outreach teams for people who don’t yet qualify for the existing Assertive Community Treatment teams.

      Robertson stressed that the crisis applies to a very small portion of people with mental illness.

      “What makes this such a difficult issue is that the chief and I want to make clear the gravity and urgency of this crisis, without unfairly stigmatizing people,” he said. “So it is important to put this in context. This is a very, very small segment of the growing population of people who deal with mental illness.”




      Sep 13, 2013 at 10:06pm

      Re: "people with severe but untreated mental illnesses that are a high risk to both themselves and residents of the city"- same goes for in Victoria where last Sunday morning a homeless guy -with his girlfriend-who was sleeping in a stairwell of an apartment I caretake, came at me with a large knife when I asked him to leave.When he drew the knife he was on the ground floor and I was just above him on the stairs facing him with my boots-which helped. The police did not apprehend him as he left on foot by the time police arrived. They arrived without a dog to track him and told me they were not interested in holding on to the garbage he left behind for fingerprints or collecting the saliva he deposited for DNA. Therefor he's still out there and someone else may not be as lucky as I was if he draws his knife again.I suspect he has mental health issues. Meanwhile as the Straight reported recently, it seems a priority for the Victoria police chief is to seize the bikes of those who repeatedly won't wear helmets.

      Leslie Shamanski

      Sep 14, 2013 at 4:41am

      Way to pass the buck... although the closing of Riverview was a major mistake and loss for the support of care of the Mentally Ill, the problem that needs to be addressed is the "Crystal Meth Psychosis" & "Drug Induced Psychosis" that is epidemic and dominates apprehensions under the Mental Health Act.

      The number of hospital admissions that are purely "Mental Health" are few in comparison and almost a relief amongst the bizarre, violent, aggressive, agitated patients brought in under Section 28 of the Mental Health Act.

      The issue as raised by Chu & Robertson is NOT about lack of supports and services available to the Mentally Ill. What is not being addressed is the scourge of Crystal Meth & Crack. Yes, Riverview should be open to protect and provide treatment for the Mentally Ill, as this population deserves to be treated and protected.

      What Chu & Robertson need to get real about is the number of individuals using drugs - namely Chrystal Meth, which induces paranoia, aggression, bizarre behaviour and psychosis. This is what they're seeing a rise in.

      The worst part of Chu's declaration of there being a "mental health crisis" is they are adding to the stigma and shame related to mental illness. What they should be declaring is a "Crystal Meth Psychosis Crisis".

      Michele Baillie

      Sep 15, 2013 at 4:05pm

      A good measure of a person is to watch to see how they treat those whom are not considered equal. This is how Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals treat people who they think are beneath them.

      Uncle Sam

      Sep 15, 2013 at 5:10pm

      Canada is fortunate being next door neighbor to the Land of Obamacare. Give me your tired, your poor,
      Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free;
      The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
      Send these, the homeless,
      Tempest-tossed to me
      I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

      Barry William Teske

      Sep 15, 2013 at 7:09pm

      And still our so called leaders lack the courage and ethical ability to deal with the real problem.
      The makers and suppliers of the components that create these illness inducing drugs.
      Plenty of legal pharmaceuticals creating mental health crises.
      No out cry on that though.
      Let the taxpayers pay for that problem.

      You need a supply to create a demand.
      You need a demand to create an addiction.
      Gosh forbid any leaders exemplify the kind of leadership or courage that would take on that task.
      One does have to wonder as to the reasons why.
      Oh but for the love of war?

      james green

      Sep 15, 2013 at 7:51pm

      This mayor has been in office for nearly five years and has done nothing to help people with mental illness. Nothing I emphasis. Why would anyone believe he will do anything in the last year of his riduculous term as a spin doctor, point man of developers and big spender . Instead of working to help people in crisis he and his blind councillors spend millions on bike lanes, consultants, studies and a oversized upper city management tea and waste in runnning this city. Please, someone come up with a viable candidate to knock this man, who lacks depth and who is unable to complete anything, out of office in the Nov 2014 mayoral election. If we do not dump this guy the serious problems this city has including high small business taxes, homelessnesss, lack of affordable housing, gangs, human trafficking, drug and alcohol abuse,spending overruns, no accountability, limited transparency and more will not see any action and these problems will only get worse.

      Rick in Richmond

      Sep 16, 2013 at 12:09am

      Drug addiction IS a mental illness.

      All of the lobbyists for easy availability cannot avoid this fact. The extreme dependencies associated with addiction vary from drug to drug. Alcohol and crack are among the worst, inducing violence and sociopathic behaviours of all types. Crystal meth may be the very worst.

      Crack and meth are neurotoxins. They destroy nerve tissue that will never be replaced. Many of these tissues belong to the motor-neuron complex.

      Those drug addicts who wander like zombies, twitching and lurching on the streets of the DTES, are at the extreme end of an inevitable process. Those who rationalize or enable such addictions are sentencing these people to an early and wretched death.

      It is time to ignore the people, and the groups, that attempt to rationalize these addictions as a "lifestyle choice".

      It is time to re-open Riverview, and to staff it with people dedicated to helping addicts get clean, and stay clean. Anything else is a life sentence -- and, inevitably, a death sentence.


      Sep 16, 2013 at 9:19am


      I take your point. But isn't there a link between mental illness and the excessive consumption of drugs leading to s.28 MHA apprehensions? I tend to think that most if not all of the meth, crack, heroin consumption is the user's attempt to self-medicate.


      Sep 16, 2013 at 9:42am

      Throw that Mayor and police chief on the street with no money,no place to live and just scraps made into soup and a sandwich passed to you for food, forget about clean clothes and a place to brush your teeth, now throw in a shopping cart so you can have a full time job digging through other peoples garbage, just to retrieve maybe a few bottles, spreading germs from one dumpster to the other, then on to public transit and you wonder way they snapped, now throw in all the doctor prescribe drugs and you wonder why they a mentally ill. Do like the Indians did back in the 30s,40ty, they all smoked pot and tobacco to deal with mentally illness until the government stepped in and supplied them with alcohol and ruined all the natural remedies. Just give them a place to live and enough funds to be able to survive and have a normal life, without being caged up. A very simple solution is: a proper place to live, a proper diet and plenty of rest, so the mind can heal itself, pills do not help, it is only a Band-Aid and also enhances suicide possibilities and our police chief and mayor wonders why. I guess they have never tried the drugs to know the effect it has on your body. They looked like Dumb and Dumber at this news bleep about the mentally ill but they have chosen to do nothing but cry about it and push the problem under the carpet instead of solving it.Treat them as human beings, not cattle.


      Sep 21, 2013 at 5:15pm

      Hey Sophie,

      Maybe you can pay for all if this out of your pocket? The mayor and chief of police chose to work hard and do well for themselves and this is why they don't live on the streets.