A new mental-health care facility proposed for Vancouver General Hospital has overcome the last couple of hurdles on the road to its construction.
This morning (January 26), Bell Canada came through with a $1-million donation that sees the project meet its funding goal of $82 million. Just a few hours later, the City of Vancouver’s Development Permit Board voted to give the building a green light.
The complex will be known as the Joseph and Rosalie Segal Family Health Centre as an expression of gratitude to the couple and their family who are donating $12 million to the project. It’s expected to open at 803 West 12th Avenue in 2017.
In a telephone interview, Joseph Segal, president of Kingswood Capital, said his family turned their attention to mental health because they found it was an area where illnesses are often neglected or complicated by stigma.
“When we decided to make the contribution, we talked about where it would have the most impact and where it was most needed,” he explained. “And the area that everyone overlooks is mental health. The people that walk the street with a mental-health problem walk alone.”
“If you have arthritis, you get treated,” Segal continued. “But if you have a mental illness, everybody avoids you. So we’ve got to bring awareness to the public.”
The future eight-story acute care hospital is being described as the largest facility for mental-health and addiction services in British Columbia.
According to a project report prepared for the permit board, the building’s lower two floors will offer out-patient services. The third floor will be used to meet administrative needs. Floors five through eight will consist of 100 in-patient beds housed in private rooms for people who require longer stays.
Plans also include a roof-top garden, designated spaces for family visits, shared common areas on each floor, exercise facilities, and a public park.
Segal noted that the 100 beds for longer-term care do not add to the province’s capacity to care for people with a mental illness, but rather replace outdated facilities such as the former VGH Willow Chest Centre.
“What we’re doing now is we’re going from a facility that is a dog pen, to a facility where people will have their dignity,” he said.
In addition to the Segals' $12 million and Bell Canada’s $1 million, the provincial government is contributing $57 million and the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is covering $25 million.
Vancouver Coastal Health breaking ground on the Joseph and Rosalie Segal Family Health Centre follows a number of positive developments concerning mental-health care in Vancouver.
On December 17, Health Minister Terry Lake announced 14 new long-term beds at the Riverview grounds in Coquitlam. Those became available in addition to a relocation of 26 beds from the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, a 100-bed facility that is presently being decommissioned following a land sale.
There’s now a public-consultation process underway that could end with the province reintroducing more mental-health care services at Riverview. As the Straight reported on January 14, the province could begin making decisions concerning the site as early as this spring.
Construction of the Joseph and Rosalie Segal Family Health Centre will follow the recent completion of the HOpe Centre for mental health and addiction in North Vancouver. That project was made possible by a $10-million donation by Robert H.N. Ho and his wife, Greta.
Attached to that facility is the Djavad Mowafaghian UBC Medical Education Centre, which serves as Canada’s largest integrated brain centre, offering services for multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and other brain disorders. It benefited from a $15-million donation by Djavad Mowafaghian to the UBC Medical Education Centre. Mowafaghian also recently donated $2-million to Vancouver General Hospital’s programs for stroke victims.
In March of last year, St. Paul’s Hospital increased its capacity for mental-health care with the opening of a nine-bed emergency psychiatry unit.
The province, working with Vancouver Coastal Health, has also expanded mental-health programs that provide care in communities. Through 2014, it increased the number of Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams active in Vancouver from three to five.
Providence Health Care also recently expanded out-patient mental-health care services offered in Vancouver. Its Inner City Youth Mental Health Program, for example, opened a new clinic in the downtown core that offers intensive case management and psychosocial rehabilitation services specifically for at-risk youth.
These developments have come as Vancouver police chief Jim Chu and Mayor Gregor Robertson have repeatedly called for assistance with what they describe as a “mental-health crisis”.
From 2010 to 2014, annual VPD apprehensions under Section 28 of the Mental Health Act increased by 32.8 percent, to more than 3,000 arrests per year.
Over the last five years, emergency mental-health visits to St. Paul’s Hospital and Vancouver General Hospital increased 50.2 percent, to 9,790 in 2014. During the same period, substance-misuse visits to the two hospitals’ emergency departments grew 103.7 percent, to 5,660 in 2014.
The Ministry of Health did not respond to a request for an interview by deadline. In 2013-14, the province spent $1.38 billion on mental-health and substance-use services.