City moves forward with efforts to address mental health crisis

October 22, 2013 | Safer Communities

Mayor Robertson joins VPD Chief Jim Chu in September to call for urgent action to assist those with severe, untreated mental illness

As part of efforts to address the crisis of severe, untreated mental illness in Vancouver, a Mayor’s Task Force on Mental Health and Addictions will be established, modeled after the Four Pillars Coalition.

The creation of the Task Force is one of the next steps outlined by City staff in a presentation to Council today, as part of a report back on the Mayor’s Roundtable on Mental Health and Addictions that took place a few weeks ago.

“Vancouver is in a crisis situation of people with untreated, severe mental illness who urgently need care and support,” said Mayor Robertson. “The City can only do so much to address the growing gap in our health and social safety net. We need ongoing support and partnerships with senior levels of government and community stakeholders.

“The scope of the challenge we face is not unlike what Vancouver faced over a decade ago with drug addiction. At the time, the creation of the Four Pillars Coalition mobilized community support and helped drive systemic change. We need to learn from the lessons of the Four Pillars and draw on it to inform our work as we tackle the challenge of severe mental illness.”

Today’s presentation to City Council outlined the key findings presented at the Mayor’s Roundtable, including:

  • A 43% increase since 2010 in patients with severe mental illness or addiction at St Paul’s Hospital Emergency Room;
  • A study by St Paul’s Mental Health Program on Vancouver’s homeless youth found 30-40% have lived in foster care, and 60-70% have a substance use disorder;
  • A study of single-room occupancy hotel tenants by the UBC Department of Psychiatry found that 95% had a substance use disorder, and 74% a mental illness.

Over 140 participants attended the Mayor’s Roundtable in early October, with broad support for current city practices such as the ‘Housing First’ policy, low-barrier support services, and focusing prevention efforts on children and youth at-risk.

The City will continue discussions with the Provincial Ministry of Health, Vancouver Coastal Health, and the VPD on next steps.