October 29, 2017 6:41 pm
Updated: October 30, 2017 11:03 pm

Funeral visit prompts plea from Coquitlam mayor to revive Riverview Hospital

WATCH: Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart took to Facebook to call for action at the largely-shuttered Riverview Hospital after attending the funeral of a 24-year-old man with addiction and mental health issues.


Coquitlam’s mayor is making an emotional plea to the province to fast-track a centre for mental health and addictions at the city’s Riverview Hospital site.

In a three-minute video posted to Facebook on Sunday, Stewart said he was renewing his call to revitalize the century-old facility after a first-hand encounter on Saturday with the deadly effects of the overdose crisis.

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“I’m [at Riverview] on my way home from a funeral,” Stewart said in the video.

“Another funeral. A young man who died of his mental illness and addictions. I got to offer condolences to a family that lost their young son, and I don’t want to do that again.”

That funeral was yet another example of how the overdose crisis is not a Downtown Eastside problem, but a B.C. problem, Stewart told CKNW on Sunday.

The Facebook post marks the second time Stewart has taken to social media to plead for action at the 244-acre site.

Jan. 2017: Coquitlam mayor’s heartfelt request to reopen Riverview Hospital

Work is underway to move three existing mental health and addictions facilities to Riverview, but Stewart said he wants to see a “massive expansion” of the facility, transforming it into a hub for mental health and addictions services, including treatment on demand.

“We really think that there’s still a missed opportunity here to put a critical mass of mental health services on the Riverview site,” Stewart said.

“We desperately need as a province, as a region, to enormously expand, particularly services for addictions, but services for all forms of mental illness.”

WATCH: Rally to support Riverview Hospital

In an emailed statement, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy acknowledged the existence of “significant gaps” in the treatment system and said she understands Stewart’s impatience.

“We will be looking at the plan for this site as part of our overall work to put in place a comprehensive system of mental health and addictions care where British Columbians can ask for help once, and get help fast.”

Darcy said that work remains in the preliminary stages, but that mental health and addiction supports are “a core vision of the Riverview lands.”

She added that a new centre for mental health and addiction with 105 beds is slated to open on the property in 2019.

WATCH: Coquitlam mayor calls for rebuilding of Riverview psychiatric facility

Coquitlam commissioned its own report on Riverview in 2014, authored by UBC clinical pyschologist Dr. John Higenbottam, which Stewart argued shows Riverview could quickly be scaled up to help address B.C.’s opioid addiction crisis sooner than that.

And while he said he doesn’t feel the current government is dragging its heels on the file, he said the need is urgent and is calling on the province to speed things up.

“This government’s been in for just months so we really need to give them a chance. But I really look forward to the possibility that someone could act quickly, so we could actually have beds open, even by the end of the year, but certainly early in 2018. I think that’s possible.”

WATCH: Province moves mental health and addictions facilities to Riverview grounds

The Riverview site has served as a provincial facility for mental health services since 1904, but was was shuttered by the province in 2012 after years of downsizing.

The province began a “visioning process” for the lands in 2013, under the banner “Renewing Riverview.”

Since then, the Kwikwitlem First Nation has expressed an interest in the land, and private developers have also pitched a plan to build market housing on the property.

in 2014, the province announced a rehab and recovery program for the grounds, with 40 beds, 14 of them new.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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