On Thursday BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon announced a $1.5 billion plan to overhaul B.C.’s mental health system and build a free, no wait addictions treatment system.
“We are going to commit to building an accessible no cost recovery-oriented system of care for anyone struggling with addiction issues,” Falcon told a crowd of supporters and journalists in New Westminster.
The plan would see user fees at publicly-funded addictions treatment centres eliminated and would allow the province to fund beds in private centres as needed in order to eliminate wait times.
It would also see at least five regional addictions recovery centres built where residents could stay for up to a year and would expand the complex care model of the Red Fish Healing Centre, on the grounds of the former Riverview Hospital, to four other regions including Vancouver Island.
Falcon says they would also triple the 105 beds currently available at the Red Fish Centre and would change legislation to allow for involuntary treatment for the most vulnerable, who are at the greatest risk of harm.
“It’s a small group, very much a smaller subset, but there are some folks that I believe we have moral obligation, to society, to help. People that are incapable at that moment of having the agency to help themselves,” he said.
While skeptical of just how the BC Liberals would roll out and pay for such an ambitious plan, families of those who have died from toxic drugs say spreading the services across the province and eliminating fees and wait lists is critical.
“If we can get good evidence-based free treatment just like other people have for other diseases that would be amazing,” said Leslie McBain, co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm.
But McBain says she would like to hear a greater focus on expanding safe supply while the treatment system is being built.
“Dead people can’t recover,” she said, referencing the morbid reminder that six people died a day in 2022 from toxic drug poisoning. “The safe supply end is what we have to look at first and it doesn’t mean we can’t look at other areas of the problem at the same time. I just wish we could get a politician to see the emergency.”
Falcon says while safe supply would be part of the plan it wouldn’t be the focus. He says if elected his system would roll out quickly, with the costs of treatment being eliminated his first day in office.