Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Sickening Treatment

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Sickening Treatment

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Sickening treatment

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An editorial from the Prince George Citizen, published Sept. 16:

People suffering from mental illness should be getting help, not getting arrested.

That was the message Vancouver Police Department Chief Jim Chu and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Roberts had for the provincial government on Friday.

"The answer for someone suffering a mental-health crisis is not a cop with a gun. When a crime is committed, often our only option is to arrest, prosecute and jail that offender," Chu told a media conference on Friday. "We need a shift from dealing with the crisis to preventing the crisis from occurring in the first place."

St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver has seen during the past three years a 43 per cent increase in people with severe mental-health trouble or addiction. And about 21 per cent of the Vancouver police's call volume involves someone who is mentally ill, Chu said.

Chu and Roberts called for the addition of 300 long-term, mental health treatment beds in B.C.; more B.C. Housing facilities staffed to help the mentally ill; a mental health crisis centre in Vancouver; and a mental health outreach team staffed by police and healthcare worker.

While those recommendations are a start, it's not enough. The impact of B.C.'s inadequate mental health system can be seen on the streets of Prince George, and other northern communities, every day.

Instead of compassionate care and treatment, many people with severe mental illnesses are left to live on the street -where drug dealers are more than happy to help them self-medicate with illegal drugs.

According to research done in the U.S. in 2006, 30 to 40 per cent of patients being treated for addictions suffer from mood and anxiety disorders. Over 20 per cent of people with mood disorders also have substance abuse issues, the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions found.

And those living on the street are only a small, visible minority of people living with mental illness. …

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