Needs of mentally ill too often neglected,VPD report claims

K. Thompson/metro vancouver


Kate O’Brien

The creation of new moderate and long-term stay facilities topped the list of recommendations made yesterday by the Vancouver Police Department on how to better serve the needs of the city’s mentally ill.

Yesterday’s recommendations coincided with the release of a VPD report that found 30 to 50 per cent of police service calls involved people who suffer from mental illness.

Police Chief Jim Chu and Mayor Sam Sullivan both said the report has made clear more needs to be done for the city’s growing number of mentally ill, with whom the police have daily run-ins.

Chu said he also supports Vancouver Coastal Health’s efforts to obtain an urgent health centre for people for whom jail is not appropriate.

"We need for St. Paul’s and Vancouver General Hospital to speed up their admissions processes," Chu added. "Often our officers are there for several hours, sometimes an entire shift."

Lost In Transition: How A Lack Of Capacity In The Mental Health System Is Failing Vancouver’s Mentally Ill And Draining Police Resources, found that too many chronically mentally ill people wind up in jail when they should be in mental health facilities.

Det. Const. Fiona Wilson-Bates, who wrote the report, said these people are "unlikely to have ever come in contact with police were it not for their illness."

Kate O’Brien, whose schizophrenic son Corey O’Brien, 22, killed himself in 2005, said her son died because he didn’t have access to treatment.

"The police are making a number of excellent recommendations, which could have made a significant difference in Corey’s life," she said.

NDP health critic David Chudnovsky, however, said the needs of the mentally ill need to be addressed before they have run-ins with the police.

"The provincial mental health advocate (and) resources that went to local community organizations to provide advocacy were cancelled," he said, adding they need to be brought back.

"If this were pneumonia the government would act. Mental health problems are health issues."

arrests going up

  • In 1999 the police made 360 arrests under the mental health act.

  • In 2007 they made 1,743 arrests under the same act.

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