Chilliwack mayor accuses Fraser Health of sending discharged mental health patients to community

Click to play video: 'Chilliwack complains about ‘dumping’ of patients'
Chilliwack complains about ‘dumping’ of patients
WATCH: The community of Chilliwack, B.C., is voicing frustration about what it says is the growing number of people with complex mental health cases who seem to be dumped in their area. Aaron McArthur reports – Mar 7, 2019

The mayor of Chilliwack is putting the Fraser Health Authority on notice: stop sending discharged elderly mental health patients our way.

Ken Popove has written a letter to the health authority claiming a woman in her 70s was dropped off by taxi at the city’s Salvation Army shelter last month after being discharged from Surrey Memorial Hospital.

He added that this case is far from the only one and is questioning why a woman with no connection to his city would wind up there.

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“The biggest point, for me, is that a warming centre is not where this lady needs to be,” Popove said. “She should be in the hospital. She has some issues that a warming shelter can’t provide for her.”

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Chilliwack’s homeless population has been surging over the last five years, with every available shelter at or near capacity. Homeless advocates say that with other municipalities dealing with similar increases, adding to the problem by sending mental health patients to shelters is the wrong approach.

“I think it’s appalling,” said Bill Raddatz, executive director of Ruth and Naomi’s Mission. “I think every community needs to work together to solve the problem. Shifting it to another community is not right.”

According to a 2017 survey conducted by the Fraser Valley Regional District, 221 people identified as homeless. Popove said that number has only gone up and that the city is working to build more affordable and supportive housing to help deal with the demand. Two of those projects are slated to open this year.

READ MORE: Fraser Valley homelessness jumps to its highest mark on record amid surging home prices

But the mayor says that’s just to meet the demand of his own citizens and that using the city as a dumping ground won’t solve anything.

“We’re a compassionate city and we want to help folks as much as we can,” he said. “But we want to take care of our people.”

The issue has caught the attention of local Liberal MLA John Martin, who brought it up with Health Minister Adrian Dix in the legislature on Thursday.

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The minister vowed that he’s taking the issue seriously. Following question period, Dix said he plans to meet with Popove and Martin to review the case and assured that Fraser Health would do the same.

“Obviously, a lot of people are discharged every day so the specific details are important, and we will review those details,” Dix said.

Fraser Health said Thursday they received the letter late Wednesday afternoon and are looking into the concerns raised by the mayor.

—With files from Aaron McArthur

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