BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon on Thursday announced his plan to both overhaul the delivery of mental health services and build a recovery-oriented system of care for those suffering from addiction.
“Over 40 years, successive BC governments closed down a rightly criticized institutional approach to mental health without ensuring an adequate system of supports was available for former patients in communities. It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing,” said Falcon.
“It is misplaced compassion to have society’s most vulnerable be exploited and abused by predatory drug dealers and human traffickers, while we pretend to care about their welfare.”
Karin Kirkpatrick, BC Liberal Critic for Housing, said: “Innovative models like the Red Fish Healing Centre – located on the former Riverview lands – treat patients with severe and complex mental health and addictions in a caring and compassionate way. This project started under the former BC Liberal government is exactly the type of treatment model we would dramatically expand by tripling the beds at the existing site, while adding regional facilities across the province.”
In addition to investing in people with complex mental health needs, the BC Liberals said they commit to building an accessible, no-cost, recovery-oriented system of care for anyone struggling with addiction. It’s time to remove the barriers that contribute to BC’s impossible-to-navigate, costly, inadequate maze of treatment options.
Falcon said: “A true Portugal model for addiction treatment– the gold standard – requires way more than decriminalization and harm reduction on their own. A government under my leadership will immediately expand free and accessible treatment and recovery options. We will also implement involuntary care where necessary. Involuntary care must always be a last resort, but we recognize there are some cases that require this type of intervention and support for both adults and youth.”
The BC Liberals said that the NDP’s decriminalization policy reflects what has already been in effect as the de facto law enforcement policy in B.C. for years. It is a small fraction of what should be a comprehensive approach, including harm reduction measures and effective public education, with a relentless focus on treatment as part of a recovery-oriented system of care.
They said that their government would immediately pursue the following initiatives as part of a comprehensive strategy to build a true system of care:
Affordable, Accessible Treatment Now
* Affordable and accessible treatment: Eliminate user fees at publicly funded addiction treatment beds and provide direct government funding for private beds through surge capacity agreements to ensure no-one faces financial barriers to treatment.
* Recovery communities: Build a minimum of five regional recovery communities for addiction treatment where residents can stay for up to a year with individualized, holistic, long-term residential treatment including Indigenous specific care.
* Treatment on demand: Create a virtual opioid dependency program to ensure immediate access to lifesaving medications like suboxone or methadone for those who don’t have a doctor and can’t get into a walk-in clinic.
* Comprehensive care: Building on the model of the Single Parent Employment Initiative, support those struggling with addiction with residential treatment, counselling and job training for one year.
* Corrections and rehabilitation: Designate living units inside correctional centres as treatment centres staffed with therapists alongside corrections officers. This will allow inmates to participate in addiction treatment while their sentence is served and improve the chances of re-integration into society following their sentence.
Compassionate Care for Complex Mental Health Needs
* Complex mental health support: Triple the beds at the Red Fish Healing Centre at Riverview and build additional regional centres using that model in the North, Thompson-Okanagan, Kootenays and Vancouver Island to ensure those requiring highly specialized mental health support can receive it close to home.
* Compassionate involuntary treatment: Bring forward legislation allowing the limited use of involuntary treatment to keep our most vulnerable youth and adults at risk of harm to themselves or others safe at modernized, compassionate facilities with 24/7 psychiatric and medical supports.
* Homelessness: BC Liberals endorse the plan proposed by Dr. Julian Somers and Simon Fraser University in July 2021, providing an effective roadmap to address street homelessness with a focus on evidence-based services, partnerships with Indigenous organizations, and a highly effective model of person-centred services.
Awareness and Prevention
* Awareness and prevention: Create and deliver youth-focused public education campaigns about addiction and recovery and establish workplace campaigns to assist employers in recognizing substance use disorders and better supporting employees in recovery.
System navigation: Create programs to support families struggling with addiction recovery system navigation, general questions, and supports for impacted family members. These programs would provide therapy and ongoing support as they work to help their loved one recover.
* Data and transparency: Establish detailed data systems to track provincewide performance measures and targets and clearly benchmark the number of publicly funded mental health and addiction treatment beds available to British Columbians. This will measure performance outcomes and ensure standardization of care.