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Richmond baby snatching sparks calls for better mental illness treatment

Click to play video 'Attempted baby-snatching in Richmond puts spotlight on mental illness treatment' Attempted baby-snatching in Richmond puts spotlight on mental illness treatment
WATCH ABOVE: The frightening attempted snatching of a baby from her mother's arms at a Richmond mall has re-focused attention on mental illness treatment in B.C. Ted Chernecki reports – Oct 6, 2016

An attempted baby snatching at Richmond Centre on Tuesday has put the spotlight on mental health issues in the region, and how the province deals with unstable offenders.

A Metro Vancouver mother told authorities a woman tried to take her toddler out of her arms at the mall on Tuesday, and now she is calling for better mental health resources after police revealed the suspect has mental health issues and is well-known to police.

“People are just not willing to help these days because they’re getting too used to seeing this activity go on. I know that if I would have let go of my son in that parking lot, I would’ve never seen him again,” said Brittany Lands, the toddler’s mother.

The incident is another example highlighting the need for better access to mental health resources and treatment in B.C.

WATCH BELOW: A mother was shopping at Richmond Centre on Tuesday when a stranger tried to snatch her toddler out of her arms. Police say the accused suffers from mental health issues. But as Ted Chernecki reports, the victim is calling for better resources before someone gets hurt.

Click to play video 'Attempted baby snatching at a Richmond mall leave mother shaken' Attempted baby snatching at a Richmond mall leave mother shaken
Attempted baby snatching at a Richmond mall leave mother shaken – Oct 5, 2016

“We are doing nobody the service by the system we have in British Columbia right now,” said NDP mental health critic and MLA Sue Hammell.

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Experts say mental health issues have never received the same treatment in our health care system, and it’s now very evident.

“I think historically, mental health and substance use has been an area that’s been neglected and now we’re trying to play catch up,” said Elliot Goldner, the Simon Fraser University director for mental health and addiction research.

The province has recently announced they will be partially reopening the Riverview Mental Hospital in a few years, but critics say the facility won’t add any beds to the system but transfer patients there from other aging facilities.

But there is one system that tends to house a large number of mentally ill patients – the justice system.

“We have a new asylum, it’s called the penal institution. And we spend $74,000 (per person) at least per year incarcerating people who are mentally ill,” said Hammell.

Despite the fact that B.C. has no long-term semi-permanent care facility for people with mental illness, there is hope the problem will soon be solved.

“There is a much more concerted effort than I’ve ever seen in the past for people to really come together, to solve the problems together, to accept that everybody has to sort of put their back to the wheel to make this happen well,” added Goldner.

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-With files from Ted Chernecki