Mayor Derek Corrigan made his message clear when he told Fraser Health Authority decision makers that the mental health service level in Burnaby is just “not good enough.”
Fraser Health’s Denise Houde, director of clinical programs, and Pam Vickram, Burnaby Mental Health and Substance Use manager, had a lot of explaining to do about the decision to standardize mental health service hours by ending them at 4:30 p.m. across the region.
It was in response to the alarm bell that was rung by the B.C. Nurses Union last month, calling the hour change only the beginning of cuts in mental health.
On Oct. 7, Houde and Vickram presented a delegation to council and noted that of the 1,475 clients in Burnaby only 16 were affected by the hour cuts, but they were all reaching the end of their counselling program and the group they attended in the evening was helping them transition.
However, council grilled the two on how the decision process was made and what was being done to help the rising number of mental health calls in the city.
“I’ve got to tell you, and it’s no offense to you, you deal with the cards that you’re given, but the message from me has been it’s not good enough,” Corrigan said.
According to the Burnaby RCMP, there were 245 calls related to mental health in 2012 received by the police, which was a combination of calls at the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health Addiction, and calls in the city for service.
Corrigan noted that the 100-bed mental health facility is run by Vancouver Coastal Health, but money is coming out of Burnaby’s pocket as the police are not subsidized when they are called there.
“I don’t like it,” he added. “I’m saying, on behalf of my community, is I don’t like it. We need resources in our community for our citizens to be hosting and paying for it through our police resources and facility in our community.”
Corrigan also noted that Vancouver clients are given more priority to get beds in the shelter, despite it being based in Burnaby – where the need is growing.
“The very often floated by people is why don’t you have an overnight shelter – that’ll fix it,” he said. “But an overnight shelter for someone who hs mental health issues and addictions issues, you know and I know that an overnight shelter does no good whatsoever. It’s a band-aid.”
Corrigan said it was absurd that Vancouver Coastal Health runs the facility and asked Houde to come back with either a response or a presentation on how Burnaby people are admitted to the facility.
Coun. Colleen Jordan said she felt the decision to standardize the hours in the Fraser Health region was made without considering the impact on the community and clients.
“Somewhere, someone made the decision to do that, but based on what?” she asked the delegation. “Based on surveying the needs of the community? Based on surveying the clients to see if that would be helpful for them? Make things harder for them? This whole process seems to be backwards and you make a bureaucratic decision what the hours will be rather than saying what’s the need in the community?”
However, Houde said the opposite was true and she and Vickram were part of the team who made the call end the evening hours offered.
“Well, the message was received because … we are the decision makers and the decision was not made lightly,” she said. “We made this decision because we have limited resources like any organization and we have to manage these resources responsibly and in order to serve the largest numbers that need our services.”
Houde said they’re obligated to serve the “seriously, persistently mentally ill” individuals and the 16 of about 1,475 were the only ones accessing the evening hours.
“I think we’re acting responsibly,” she added. “The demand for our services is increasing. It was the responsible decision to make to serve the clients.”
Coun. Sav Dhaliwal noted that the service was at least available two evenings a week until 6:30 p.m., rather than not at all.
“I still see a need for that,” he added. “Because obviously, what happens in the real world is not what I’m hearing from you.
“These 16 people are happy, but I’m seeing, on the other hand, that things are getting worse.”
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