COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) – Construction has begun on what the NDP is calling a state-of-the-art mental health and addictions treatment centre on the Riverview grounds in Coquitlam.
“This is an opportunity for us to put down a marker to the community that the Riverview lands and Coquitlam welcome those who need help,” says Premier John Horgan. “They welcome those who are suffering from addictions, they welcome those with mental health challenges.”
He believes this is a time to turn the page with indigenous people and the people of Coquitlam to provide an opportunity for wellness in BC.
The $101-million adult treatment facility had already been promised by the former BC Liberal government. Today’s announcement gives us a better idea of when it might open, with the province now looking to “late 2019.”
“This new Riverview centre for mental health and addictions will be an important part of us building a comprehensive system, a seamless coordinated system for mental health care and addictions care in the province,” explains Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy. “This work is incredibly critical right now, as we grapple with the worst public health emergency that British Columbia has faced in decades, when by the end of this day, four people will die.”
Meanwhile, Coquitlam’s mayor says he’s pleased to see shovels in the ground.
“I look forward to more announcements about an expanded capacity. We really need desperately to expand the capacity for addictions treatment in the province,” says Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart.
Stewart had been hoping for a more significant announcement today; he told NEWS 1130 yesterday that he wanted the facility to be fast-tracked to open next year.
Stewart – who’s been open about his family’s struggle with mental health issues – says he’s already had several conversations with the premier about re-purposing the 113-year old campus.
“It’s no question that construction takes time. That’s one of our challenges right now. If we always look to new builds, we’re going to end up looking two years from now — the possibility of maybe in two years having that building open. So, we’re looking to the province, as well, to contemplate some of the existing buildings.”
“I’ve spoken to the premier, I’ve spoken to Minister [of Mental Health Judy] Darcy. And both of them have said that — they know that we need expanded services for mental health and addictions,” says Stewart. “We really need to move quickly on this file and we’re going to support the provincial government in any way we can on this site — or anywhere else. The goal, obviously, is to make sure that we expand for families the hope that’s provided by the facilities that they desperately need today.”
Harm reduction advocacy group critical of timeline
President of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users Lorna Bird says she’s pleased there will be more beds available to those seeking treatment, but adds the province shouldn’t think this is the end.
“It’s a small start and just depends who’s getting those beds,” she says. “What is the criteria and where do they go? How do they choose who gets the beds?”
Bird adds the province needs to nearly triple the number to accommodate need, as well as have enough staff to work the facility. But that’s not the only issue.
The VANDU president stresses the need for more emergency bed spaces to get people into treatment faster, when they agree to it, and says it needs to happen soon.
“2019 is two more years,” Bird explains. “I wonder how many will die before that happens.”