Mental health arrests in Vancouver climb to a five-year high

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      Nearly one year has passed since Vancouver police chief Jim Chu stood alongside Mayor Gregor Robertson and called attention to the increasing frequency with which officers are the first point of contact for people with mental-health challenges.

      “The answer for someone suffering a mental-health crisis is not a cop with a gun,” Chu said on September 13, 2013. “We need a shift from dealing with the crisis to preventing the crisis from occurring in the first place.”

      Since then, the problem has gotten worse, according to VPD statistics provided to the Straight.

      During the first six months of 2014, police made 1,470 apprehensions under Section 28 of the Mental Health Act, which permits officers to arrest and detain individuals deemed to have a mental disorder and to pose a threat to themselves or others.

      That number represents an average of roughly eight apprehensions every day in Vancouver. It also marks a five-year high for the period of January 1 to June 30.

      Section 28 apprehensions between January and June have increased every year since 2010, from 1,145 to 1,240 in 2011, to 1,310 in 2012, and to 1,430 in 2013.

      On August 25, Chu spoke at the 2014 general meeting of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, held in Victoria, where he reiterated his call for higher levels of government to assist police in dealing with people with mental illness.

      “People with mental-health issues need the health system, not the justice system,” he said.

      Chasing a crisis
      Through September 2014 the Straight ran a series of articles exploring how Vancouver cares for the severely mentally ill.
      Part one: Vancouver police still seeking help to prevent a mental-health crisis
      Part two: Amid a mental-health crisis, Vancouver care providers revisit the debate on institutionalization
      Part three: Vancouver service providers fail to get ahead of a mental-health crisis
      Part four: B.C. prisons lock mentally-ill offenders in isolation

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      Michael Snell

      Aug 27, 2014 at 1:23pm

      The article misses the point that the only way these people can receive treatment is if they are brought by police as apprehensions. They by and large don't want the treatment that will be imposed on them.
      Given this, contrary to the article , more are getting treatment not less.

      Ted Campbell

      Aug 28, 2014 at 10:05pm

      Please correct me if I'm wrong but I think one of Dave Barrett's first moves after becoming Premier was to close Essondale and Colony Farm. His words were; "We shouldn't be warehousing people" This is not a knock at Dave but if it was a mistake to turn people who are unable to fend for themselves loose on city streets at that time now is high time to rethink the situation. There is a saying "if you can't trust your drug dealer who can you trust?" It fits a lot of what's happening in the DTES. I'm sure Mr. Barrett thought he was doing the right thing but there is probably a half-way point that should be considered.


      Aug 29, 2014 at 10:45pm

      Ted Campbell,

      We shouldn't be warehousing people but they should still be getting help. The issue is that there isn't enough support at a community level. Part of it is funding, part of it is NIMBY.

      Large intuitions aren't the best way. That said, it would be better than what is going on now.


      Aug 30, 2014 at 9:19am

      The largest mental health case is gregor, legend in his on mind. "I'll end homelessness", what a moron, problem is a lot deeper than you will ever be.Not everything can be fixed with a bike lane. Goodbye and dont let city halls front door hit you on the way out, good riddance to a bad smell.


      Dec 20, 2014 at 11:39pm

      You are right mike, but sadly, the morons that live in Vancouver voted this idiot back into office. I also believe that the mental health problem is being largely ignored by Robertson and Clark. They should re-open Riverdale? and get these people off the streets. They need to be treated and medicated. Without drugs they are dangerous and should not be riding city buses or skytrain. Problem is, none of these politicans take transit. You know, out of sight out of mind? At least that what it looks like to me.