Mayors calling for re-opening of Riverview Hospital
A group of B.C. mayors are calling on the provincial government to re-open Coquitlam’s Riverview Hospital for mental health patients.
Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin is leading the charge to return to a more centralized care facility for the mentally ill.
Riverview was closed in 2012 after a gradual shut-down over 10 years, with a goal of moving towards within-community treatment such as group homes.
Daykin said the resources weren’t there to help out-patients successfully integrate themselves into society. He is concerned there is a rising number of mentally ill people living on the streets.
“It’s about breaking the cycle,” he said, suggesting the province needs a better support system for both the mentally ill and for people struggling with drug addictions.
“We’re looking for solutions. We’re not saying we have the answers, but having the conversation may be step one, and we need to start there,” he said.
His proposal is supported by Selina Robinson, NDP MLA for Coquitlam-Maillardville, who agrees Riverview’s closure didn’t work well because of a lack of other mental health care options.
“There haven’t been the community supports needed to make it a really good transition,” said Robinson, who worked in the mental health field for 20 years as a therapist before getting into politics.
She thinks Riverview is an ideal place for a renewed mental health care facility because of its history, dating back to 1913.
“Treatment centres or detox centres – anything like that you can often get community backlash. That won't happen here because it is already zoned and has been used historically for mental health,” she said. “It’s a part of the Coquitlam community.”
Daykin’s proposal is coming on the heels of a meeting of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which called on governments to provide more support for the mentally ill.
Association president Jim Chu of the Vancouver Police Department said the number of arrests falling under Mental Health Act has more than quadrupled since 2002. He said many of these arrests involve people who would be better off in mental health institutions.
“There are people who are de-institutionalized on the basis that they will get support in the community, but they don't. Or there are people that shouldn't be de-institutionalized,” said Chu last week.
The B.C. Ministry of Health released a statement Monday defending the decision to close Riverview, while pointing out there are still some mental health services provided on the Riverview grounds.
“Current mental health research suggests that individuals living with serious and persistent mental illness respond better to care in smaller, community-based facilities rather than in large institutions,” the statement reads, adding that Riverview patients were separated from their families, friends and communities.
Daykin will be proposing the re-opening of Riverview in September at the annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, where the delegates will vote on asking the provincial government for action.
With files from the Canadian Press and CTV’s Peter Grainger