The District of Maple Ridge is calling on the provincial government to reopen Riverview Hospital to address what it says is an inadequacy in mental-health care in B.C.
The district will put forward a resolution at next month’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention calling for the reinstatement of the 100-year-old institution as a “modern centre of excellence for mental-health care and support.”
Mayor Ernie Daykin said while community supports have benefited many with mental illnesses, “one approach is not going to fix everybody.”
The downsizing of the Port Coquitlam facility began decades ago, when the province began shifting away from institutionalization and toward community-based mental-health care. The official Riverview Redevelopment Project was initiated in 2002 and saw patients and funding for beds transferred over to smaller facilities under the regional health authorities. “I think some folks did make that transition and are coping quite well, but the tough reality is that some could not without that [institutional] support,” Mr. Daykin said. “Some have fallen through the cracks as a result.”
The union will debate the resolution and decide whether to endorse it in mid-September. Mr. Daykin said he hopes, at the very least, that it will start a conversation on possible solutions for a complicated matter.
Forensic psychiatrist Shabehram Lohrasbe says he has worked with many patients who have “longed to go back to Riverview.” Citing the need to have a range of treatment options – including a long-term facility for the most seriously ill – Dr. Lohrasbe said he would love to see the institution reopen in a modernized form.
“There is a subgroup of severely mentally ill people who need asylum. They need a place that is safe, where they are looked after, where their routines are structured and they can go into the community but come back into a hospital setting,” he said. “A lot of mentally ill people with severe forms of schizophrenia and other mental disorders, they’re served very well with long stays in an asylum and then gradual attempts to integrate into the community, knowing if they slip up, they can go back there.
“What would happen as we were cutting down at Riverview is that once they were out, they were out.”
In a statement, the Ministry of Health said the Riverview Redevelopment Project is in line with current mental-health research that suggests “individuals living with serious and persistent mental illness respond better to care in smaller, community-based facilities rather than in large institutions.”
“The [project] was undertaken to provide modern care settings across the province to improve patients’ lives, often in the communities patients are from,” the statement read. “Over the transition period, no patient left Riverview Hospital without a designated bed in a community facility and a care plan.”
The Fraser Health Authority still operates several residential mental-health facilities on Riverview lands, the statement continued. The government committed “$138-million in capital funding to build or expand mental-health facilities” as part of the Riverview Redevelopment Project and opened 715 beds by the end of 2012.