In reaction to the mental health crisis within Vancouver’s downtown east side, as stated by Mayor Gregor Robertson and our police chief, the B.C. Government has announced a new action plan. This includes a new nine-to-twelve bed psychiatric assessment unit at St. Paul’s Hospital and five new “high-intensity” group homes.
This concern was brought about from the soaring number of mental health patients being admitted to St. Paul’s. Being located in downtown, the hospital is often seeing patients with drug addictions and mental health disorders, many of which are untreated. Not only is the hospital underprepared for assisting these patients, but as well, the police officers that handle emergencies on the street. Fortunately, the police chief is committed to implementing more training for the officers to ensure the level of escalation is reduced and to limit the number of arrests made against homeless individuals.
Of course, with any action plan, it must be implemented with care and dedication in order to see meaningful change. Health Minister Terry Lake has suggested a committee of Vancouver stakeholders to study “evidence-based” strategies to plan the next steps of action. It is important, however, that this committee be created immediately in order to put the funding in the most urgent areas of care. A positive initiative is the outreach team based at St. Paul’s that ensures patients are following through on their treatment plan.
With about half the people living in the city’s residential hotels living with a mental health disorder, this plan is a necessity for the welfare of the most vulnerable. It is certainly a step in the right direction and hopefully the statistics will improve for treating and caring for the homeless.