With mental health calls on the rise, officials question whether Riverview Hospital should reopen

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Should Riverview psychiatric hospital be reopened?
Should a modern-day version of the mental health facility reopen in Coquitlam? Jordan Armstrong takes a closer look into this issue – Aug 10, 2022

With a rise in seemingly unprovoked assaults and attacks in Metro Vancouver where mental health is a contributing factor, some officials are now questioning if a shuttered facility should be reopened.

In May, Sgt. Steve Addison with the Vancouver Police Department said violent crime in the city increased 7.1 per cent in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Vancouver Police Department data released late last year also showed an average of four people are the victims of random, groundless attacks by strangers every day. Those figures that don’t include barfights, robberies, incidents of road rage or assaults where the individuals are known to each other.

Some of the perpetrators have records of between 200 and 500 previous police interactions.

Of police calls involving a “mental health component,” Chief Const. Howard Chow has also said about 84 per cent involve violence, danger or criminality, and 12 per cent involve weapons.

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Now some are wondering if Riverview psychiatric facility or a similar organization should be reopened.

“There is a core of folks in the city that either need more, or much deeper, mental health and addiction support,” Mayor Kennedy Stewart said Monday. “I think this is a long-standing issue, since Riverview was closed, for example, there was no answer to this.”

Riverview Hospital served as a provincial facility for mental health services from 1904 to 2012, when it was shuttered by the province after years of downsizing.

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In 2017, the provincial government announced a centre for adults with severe mental health and addiction challenges was set to be built on the grounds of Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, with 105 beds at a cost of $101 million.

The Red Fish Healing Centre opened last year, but advocates said those beds were just relocated from other facilities and did not add any additional spaces.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday the provincial government is buying hotels and buildings to provide new housing and facilities for those who need it.

“To provide not just housing, but the necessary supports for people who have very significant needs,” he said.

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However, BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon told Global News the government needs to do something “dramatically different” to address those needs.

Not everyone thinks the hospital or a similar facility should be reopened.

Guy Felicella, a peer clinical advisor at the BC Centre on Substance Use said Riverview caused a lot of “harm” to its patients.

“In regards to opening something at that facility, I would suggest it would need to be completely demolished and something rebuilt that would support people who are struggling with mental health in today’s times and not in the dark ages of the past,” he said.


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