Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said the government is considering ways to provide services for people who are seriously mentally ill and also addicted to substances. (Black Press Media files)

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

The mayor of Nanaimo wants the province to institutionalize severely mentally ill people who are homeless and often addicted to alcohol and illegal substances.

Leonard Krog said the government’s construction of modular homes that replaced a bulldozed tent city is helping but those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care.

“These are people who are hearing voices all the time, who are paranoid, who won’t go to shelters because of past experiences or the state of their mental health, people who won’t clean themselves, take care of themselves, feed themselves, people who are taking street drugs, people who are threatening people,” Krog said in an interview on Friday.

“It’s not just homelessness, it’s mental health, it’s addictions, it’s the petty crime that flows from it and it’s the severe cases that are being shuffled in and out of psych wards.”

WATCH: B.C. centre at forefront of treating mental health and addiction together

Krog said he doesn’t want a return to the warehousing of mentally ill people, as was the case in institutions like the Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, which began accepting fewer patients in the 1990s before closing in 2012.

He said the city of under 100,000 people has a homeless population of between 600 and 800.

Leonard Krog, mayor of Nanaimo.

Many of them are mentally ill people who cause public disorder and need treatment in a facility based in the community, similar to seniors suffering from dementia, whose families continue having contact with them as they receive care.

The housing and treatment of people with mental illnesses who can’t care for themselves are the province’s responsibility, he said.

READ MORE: B.C.’s homeless, vulnerable only receive adequate care when nearing death: study

“We have offered to the province, if they want, to try to experiment here on an innovative approach,” Krog said.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said the government is considering ways to provide services for people who are seriously mentally ill and also addicted to substances.

“We certainly did see a phenomenon a number of years ago, when places like Riverview were closed and other institutions were closed across the province, of people with severe mental challenges being released into the community without the support that they needed and we see some of the results of that today,” she said in an interview.

Those with brain damage from an opioid overdose is an example of someone who may need long-term support, Darcy said.

“We are taking a very hard look at what it means to provide the supports that those people need,” she said, adding that could mean supportive housing that provides mental health and addictions support.

Darcy said patients at the former Riverview facility did not always get the support or quality of life they needed so the province is working to provide care that meets the needs of those it’s aiming to help.

Prof. Julian Somers, a researcher in mental illness and addiction who teaches in the health sciences faculty at Simon Fraser University, said supported housing with treatment is the best approach to dealing with homeless people who have a mental illness.

He led a study of 2,000 homeless people in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Moncton, N.B., between 2009 and 2014. It showed that supported housing in communities provides stable accommodation for the hardest-to-house people, including those who suffer from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Somers said a team that includes a psychologist who meets with the homeless to understand their needs and connect them to resources is the best approach.

“We’re way behind Ontario and Quebec in implementing this type of service,” he said.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jumbo Valley to be protected, ending decades-long dispute over proposed ski resort

Development rights permanently retired for site of proposed year-round ski resort west of Invermere

Trust delivers social grants, several in Trail and Rossland

Columbia Basin Trust supports 31 projects with $680,000 in social grants

FedEx distribution centre coming to Castlegar

Development permit for ground facility before council next week.

Kootenay teams heading for curling provincials

Team Buchy and Team Nichols won the senior playdowns.

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Most Read