Ground broken at site of $101M mental health centre at Riverview
The B.C. NDP is making good on a pledge made by the previous government two years ago to open a mental health facility at the site of Riverview Hospital.
Ground was broken at the site Friday as the premier touted a plan first released by the Liberals in 2015: a 105-bed, $100-million facility in Coquitlam.
The centre will be used for treatment of adults with severe mental health challenges, with the goal of stabilizing illness and moving on to rehabilitation and recovery, the NDP said.
As a provincial service, staff at the centre will be in communication with local specialists across B.C. to help provide further care to outpatients.
Each of the rooms will be designed to be therapeutic, including elements like natural light, Indigenous artwork and views of the grounds.
Scheduled to open in 2019, the building will replace the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction on the sprawling 244-acre lot that housed a century-old hospital. The Liberals previously pledged that construction would start this year, and the project went ahead despite a change of leadership.
At the news conference, the premier discussed how those involved with the project worked with local First Nations leaders on the planning.
"We are in a crisis in Canada and in British Columbia when it comes to the deaths of citizens because of opioid addictions – a disproportionate number of those are Indigenous people," John Horgan said.
"This is an opportunity for us to put down a marker to the community that the Riverview lands and Coquitlam welcome those who need help. They welcome those who are suffering from addictions. They welcome those who are suffering from mental health challenges."
But Horgan ceded that more work is needed going forward, calling it a first step on a long road to providing services B.C. residents need.
"We're not ruling out anything… We want to have a coordinated, focused approach on addressing these challenges and it starts right here today," he said.
Also at the event was B.C.'s minister of mental health and addictions, who said she's heard countless stories from families about their struggle to find adequate care.
"This state-of-the-art centre will be central to the creation of a community of care at Riverview that gives families the services and support they desperately need," Judy Darcy said.
Her sentiments were echoed by the minister of municipal affairs and housing, the MLA representing Coquitlam-Maillardville, who said the grounds will become a hub for patients, families and those working in the health care field.
"This new centre will give people the environment and care that they need to get well and live happy, fulfilling lives," Selina Robinson said.
"It will also help us bring more critical mental health and addiction services and supports into one location here at Riverview."
While Robinson praised the project Friday, she was critical when it was announced two years ago while she was serving as critic. In a phone interview with CTV News in 2015, she said that the project would actually only add 17 to the total available.
"It's not going to be enough to empty our emergency rooms, and it's certainly not going to make much difference for our police force," she said at the time.
And on Friday, the minister of mental health and addictions said the net new number of beds would actually be lower: only 11 will be added to the system.
"We will be looking at whether we need more beds as part of building a comprehensive strategy for mental health and addictions in the province because we need to be looking at the entire continuum of care, both treatment beds as well as outpatient services," Darcy said.
A second building is planned for the north end of the site, which will include a treatment centre for youth and a provincial assessment centre. Both are also under construction, according to the province.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson and Jon Woodward