Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said the government is considering ways to provide services for people who are seriously mentally ill and also addicted to substances. (Black Press Media files)

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

The mayor of Nanaimo wants the province to institutionalize severely mentally ill people who are homeless and often addicted to alcohol and illegal substances.

Leonard Krog said the government’s construction of modular homes that replaced a bulldozed tent city is helping but those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care.

“These are people who are hearing voices all the time, who are paranoid, who won’t go to shelters because of past experiences or the state of their mental health, people who won’t clean themselves, take care of themselves, feed themselves, people who are taking street drugs, people who are threatening people,” Krog said in an interview on Friday.

“It’s not just homelessness, it’s mental health, it’s addictions, it’s the petty crime that flows from it and it’s the severe cases that are being shuffled in and out of psych wards.”

WATCH: B.C. centre at forefront of treating mental health and addiction together

Krog said he doesn’t want a return to the warehousing of mentally ill people, as was the case in institutions like the Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, which began accepting fewer patients in the 1990s before closing in 2012.

He said the city of under 100,000 people has a homeless population of between 600 and 800.

Leonard Krog, mayor of Nanaimo.

Many of them are mentally ill people who cause public disorder and need treatment in a facility based in the community, similar to seniors suffering from dementia, whose families continue having contact with them as they receive care.

The housing and treatment of people with mental illnesses who can’t care for themselves are the province’s responsibility, he said.

READ MORE: B.C.’s homeless, vulnerable only receive adequate care when nearing death: study

“We have offered to the province, if they want, to try to experiment here on an innovative approach,” Krog said.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said the government is considering ways to provide services for people who are seriously mentally ill and also addicted to substances.

“We certainly did see a phenomenon a number of years ago, when places like Riverview were closed and other institutions were closed across the province, of people with severe mental challenges being released into the community without the support that they needed and we see some of the results of that today,” she said in an interview.

Those with brain damage from an opioid overdose is an example of someone who may need long-term support, Darcy said.

“We are taking a very hard look at what it means to provide the supports that those people need,” she said, adding that could mean supportive housing that provides mental health and addictions support.

Darcy said patients at the former Riverview facility did not always get the support or quality of life they needed so the province is working to provide care that meets the needs of those it’s aiming to help.

Prof. Julian Somers, a researcher in mental illness and addiction who teaches in the health sciences faculty at Simon Fraser University, said supported housing with treatment is the best approach to dealing with homeless people who have a mental illness.

He led a study of 2,000 homeless people in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Moncton, N.B., between 2009 and 2014. It showed that supported housing in communities provides stable accommodation for the hardest-to-house people, including those who suffer from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Somers said a team that includes a psychologist who meets with the homeless to understand their needs and connect them to resources is the best approach.

“We’re way behind Ontario and Quebec in implementing this type of service,” he said.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Decision on judicial review of Cowichan Motorsport decision could take months

VIMC said it was assured by North Cowichan that expansion would be allowed

South Cowichan Lawn Tennis Club goes retro

Wood Racket Tournament features period uniforms

Tiny homes could help housing issues in North Cowichan, says housing official

John Horn says homeless need shelter with winter coming

Editorial: Tiny houses should be an option in Cowichan

We are missing the boat by not enabling the building of tiny houses.

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

March to protect old growth, stop industrial logging coming to B.C. Legislature

Organizers say they want to give frontline communities a bigger say in nearby logging

B.C. releases details of $1.5B economic recovery plan, $660M in business tax incentives

Economic plan includes support for employers, as well as training for workers

‘Not criminally responsible’ hearing slated for man convicted of Abbotsford school stabbing

Gabriel Klein was found guilty in March of killing Letisha Reimer, 13, in 2016

B.C.’s 1st mental health and addictions minister won’t be seeking re-election

MLA Judy Darcy is the fifth cabinet minister not intending to run in the next election

Vancouver’s shuttered aquarium searching for financial solution amid pandemic

The aquarium needs about $1 million a month to cover its costs

B.C., Alberta sending nearly 300 fire personnel by Friday to help battle wildfires in Oregon

Some 230 firefighters, most from British Columbia but including a number from Alberta, will be deployed Friday

Most Read