Vancouver police end 2014 with a record number of arrests under the Mental Health Act

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      This past year Vancouver police officers spent more time than ever before dealing with people who struggle with a mental illness and/or addiction.

      In a telephone interview, VPD Const. Brian Montague said the department is still reviewing statistics for the end of December. But he reported that for 2014, the final number of VPD apprehensions under Section 28 of the Mental Health Act is going to be right around 3,025.

      That’s more than eight arrests a day. It also marks a five-year high for apprehensions made under Section 28 of the Mental Health Act, which permits officers to detain individuals deemed to have a mental disorder and to pose a threat to themselves or others.

      According to Montague, in 2013 there were 2,872 such apprehensions, in 2012 there were 2,636, in 2011 there were 2,489, and in 2010 there were 2,278—an increase of between 100 and 200 per year.

      Transit Police, a regional authority responsible for areas covered by TransLink services, has reported a similar increase in interactions with people experiencing mental-health issues.

      A request for the most up-to-date numbers was not returned by deadline. But in October, spokesperson Anne Drennan supplied the Straight with a projected year-end total. That number is 2,322 Transit Police “files with a mental health component”, a 36-percent increase over 2013, Drennan noted.

      Asked today if the numbers will continue to climb next year, Montague responded, “Only time will tell. I hope it doesn’t. We’re seeing tragedy after tragedy.”

      In September 2014 Health Minister Terry Lake told reporters the province was responding to calls for assistance on mental health by creating more residential-care beds for the ill.
      Travis Lupick

      Faced with the same question at a press conference in September, B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake conceded it is possible the situation could continue to get worse.

      “Will we see those numbers continue to go up?” said Lake, speaking to reporters at a press conference. “I hope not. But at the same time, we recognize that around North America—it’s not just in British Columbia—you are seeing police departments having to deal with mental-health issues.”

      In past interviews, Montague noted that eight Section 28 arrests per day is a high number, but also one that only reveals a fraction of the problem. Many calls are not serious enough to end with an apprehension and therefore aren't marked down as such.

      In September 2014, Montague reported the VPD now deals with between 75 to 100 interactions involving a mental-health component every day. That translates to 27,375 to 36,500 VPD calls involving a mental illness during 2014.

      At the same time, Montague stressed it's a small minority of people with mental-health challenges who encounter police. He added that the mentally ill are more likely to incur harm than inflict it.

      The Vancouver Police Department has repeatedly asked for assistance on the issue. September marked one year having passed since VPD chief Jim Chu stood alongside Mayor Gregor Robertson and called attention to the increasing frequency with which police 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 then. “We need a shift from dealing with the crisis to preventing the crisis from occurring in the first place.”

      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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      BOB the builder

      Dec 30, 2014 at 6:10pm

      I was on the project that downsized River View mental hospital to 400 persons about a dozen years ago. The hospital was holding many 1000s of persons previous I was told. I was also told at that time; that with the rising population, there was already 3000 "in need" folks on the streets that should have been getting help at River View. With the population explosion over the last 15 years and the known stat ratio, it would most certainly be at 10,000 persons now. The family that purchased River View back in the day (they had a family member in need also is why they were passionate), made the BC Province promise to always keep it a mental health facility.I read that North Korea just shoots their "in need" folks, unlike us who let them freeze to death on the streets as we drool over the real estate.

      Let's do it

      Dec 30, 2014 at 7:48pm

      Please, let's help the mentally ill. Please will someone--a Lower Mainland Bob Geldof in waiting--lead the charge and keep charging, mouthing off (in an informed way) in the press, unflinchingly calling the liars and hypocrites on their lies and hypocrisy, impassioning others to help, showing them how to help, and being the shining light behind opening a new facility. Let's save all these souls and help people be safe and get well. Please. I don't think I have the energy or ability to do it myself or I would. And I lack the education to be taken seriously by anyone anymore. Come on. Let's do it! Going about it the conventional way isn't yielding any results. We keep talking stats and wringing our hands. Let's do something for real!!!


      Dec 30, 2014 at 8:04pm

      Its an problem clear created by perpetuated by our government. Close the mental hospital and releasing them all on the streets with a drug administering program to give medication to those that seek it was a desaster from the start. A 5 year old could have had a better plan. Add into that "safe" injection sites and out city wonders why this problem gets worse and worse.


      Dec 30, 2014 at 11:17pm

      You start off OK, then you go full ______. Never go full ______.

      The problem is going to get worse.
      For those of us in 2014, nearly 2015, it is settled science that mental wellbeing comes only from a healthy diet, shelter, exercise, and possibly some sort of meaning beyond that. But considering only the first three, social assistance does not provide enough.

      It is unacceptable in a first world nation like Canada to say things like "the poor can go a-walkin'." No exercise program is complete without strength training. People who think poor people can lift weights for free at community centers are wrong: they can use the pool, that's basically it.

      And for shelter and diet, well, the BC Dietitians say disability isn't enough, let alone welfare. At this point, it's almost imperative for the Government to not re-institutionalize the poor and "mentally ill" because many of them will spontaneously recover after being given adequate diet. Although, most mental health facilities do not do a full nutrition workup, because, you know, mental illness is basically about character defect and/or demon possession, not about what someone has been eating for the 6-12 months prior to the "mental health" event.

      Just sayin'

      Dec 31, 2014 at 8:38am

      Let’s be honest here this all leads back to one place, Riverview. When the NDP shut down Riverview they created a mental health/homeless epidemic in this city. Until people get over this politically correct high horse and start institutionalizing people again we will never see any improvement. No matter how well meaning you think you are you're actually doing these people a disservice. There simply aren't enough resources to implement the Utopian model of mental health care. So, you get what we have now. A disaster.


      Dec 31, 2014 at 7:49pm

      "When the NDP shut down Riverview..." That's a simplistic rewrite of actual history. The Social Credit Party had already gutted Riverview of its psychiatric staff-oversight professionals and replaced them with hogs-at-the-trough administrators. Funding rarely reached patient services or building maintenance after that.

      bishops green tomorrow brings us hope

      Jan 1, 2015 at 2:03am

      I live @ abbot/hastings. My fave insane guy is the dude who rides an electric scooter with his dog in the front blasting motorhead while going up the wrong side of the road or sidewalk, and picking fights with anybody who looks at him.

      I've seen that guy thrown out of Tim Hortons, Starbucks, literally everywhere. Crazy as balls. His little dog with him while cops fight with him to toss him out of some shitty coffee house.

      Colleen Fuller

      Jan 1, 2015 at 12:44pm

      1. Mental "illness" is the wrong term - it is a put down, a medicalization of people who are different than what we are all supposed to be - ie., happily enslaved in a capitalist economy. People who are different aren't "ill" any more than someone with diabetes is ill. 2) Canada is the second-lowest spender (after the good ol' USA) on the social safety net - austerity contributes to mental distress, along with homelessness, poor nutrition, shitty wages and working conditions. These conditions can't be "cured" with a medical diagnosis of "mental illness". Like someone with diabetes who is unable to eat a healthy diet, get exercise, etc., people who are under duress because of poverty, bad relationships, whatever, might find it more difficult to maintain a healthy outlook on life. It doesn't mean they're sick, it means our society is totally f***ked up. People with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder should not be described as "ill". And people who are depressed/distressed shouldn't be put on pills to cure a condition induced by government austerity programs and ruthless capitalism.