Vancouver’s Mayor and Police Chief have declared a “mental health crisis” in the city and are demanding action from the provincial and federal governments.
Mayor Gregor Robertson and Police Chief Jim Chu held a news conference today, saying the mental health problem is getting increasingly worse.
Chu says his officers are on the front lines of mental health issues, and that’s not right.
“Police should not be on the front lines — instead of a last resort, we are becoming the first resort.”
Police say that within the past three years, the emergency room at St. Paul’s Hospital has had a 43 per cent increase in patients with severe mental illness or addiction.
There’s been a 16 per cent increase in the number of people arrested under the mental health act between 2010 and 2012. That’s a fivefold increase since 2002.
So far this year, arrests under the mental health act are up 23 per cent year-to-date.
Mental illness is a factor in 21 per cent of all incidents handled by the Vancouver Police. Officers are spending 25 per cent of their report writing time on incidents involving mental health issues.
Police have already responded to 36 “serious” incidents involving mental health this year.
Over the past 15 months, 26 innocent victims in Vancouver were attacked and injured in 11 separate incidents.
“This is a crisis — we can’t say anything else at this point,” says Robertson. “The government needs to spend the money, the money is being spent one way or another. There’s carnage.”
The Mayor and Police Chief are calling for 300 new long-term, secure mental health beds; a mental health crisis centre; and more staffing at BC Housing sites to support tenants with mental illness.
Robertson and Chu say they are awaiting a response from the provincial and federal governments to their demands.
To read the Vancouver Police Department’s latest report on mental health in Vancouver, click here