North Cowichan Mayor Rob Douglas wants to ensure that the municipality, and the Cowichan Valley as a whole, benefit from the almost $1 billion the province has committed to dealing with mental health and addictions issues in B.C.
Douglas told council at its meeting on April 5 that Councillors Mike Caljouw and Bruce Findlay joined him on a recent walkabout with bylaw enforcement and RCMP officers in the areas in the municipality most dramatically impacted by mental health and addiction issues.
They include the York Road, Lewis Street and Beverly Street areas close to where Warmland House and Island Health’s Overdose Prevention Site are located.
“These are the parts of our community seeing the biggest challenges related [to these issues] which are impacting local residents and their families, surrounding neighbourhoods, and schools and businesses as well,” Douglas said.
“I appreciated seeing our bylaw enforcement team in action. They built positive and cooperative relationships with many of the local folks currently living on the streets and facing many of these challenges. However, as was apparent to us during the walkabout of this area, we’re facing some pretty big issues here that are going to require solutions that are outside our limited powers as a municipality.”
Douglas said that he recently met with several experts on mental health and additions treatment, including an operator of several facilities on the mainland, and professors from Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Applied Research on Mental Health and Addictions.
“Talking to these folks has given me a much better understanding of the current gaps in our services for mental health and addictions, and also a better sense of what we’re going to need to be advocating for with the senior levels of government,” he said.
“Obviously, as a municipality, we’re not in the business of providing these services directly, but we do have an important role in terms of advocacy.”
Douglas pointed to the $867 million the province committed to in March to expanding treatment and recovery options and complex-care sites in B.C. as one means to help address the issues in the region.
The province said that investment will include more treatment beds, new long-term recovery communities, Indigenous treatment centres and more wraparound services for youth.
“It’s going to be important for us as a municipality, and as a region, to ensure that some of this funding is invested in our community,” Douglas said.