‘First of its kind’ addictions, mental health treatment centre opens in B.C.

'First of its kind' addictions, mental health treatment centre opens in B.C.
NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson speaks with the media about her private members bill regarding abandoned vessels, in Ottawa on Thursday, November 30, 2017.

The British Columbia government says a new addictions and mental health treatment facility in Coquitlam, B.C., could influence how the province develops care in the future.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson say the 105-bed Red Fish Healing Centre is the first of its kind and will allow patients to be treated for mental health and addictions together.

Malcolmson says having both issues treated at the same time wasn’t previously possible at other B.C. treatment sites.

She adds that the centre has patients but is not yet at full capacity, with its success determining if the model will be expanded across the province.

Selina Robinson, the finance minister and representative for Coquitlam-Maillardville, says the treatment centre has been a long time in the making.

Robinson, who previously worked as a family therapist and addictions counsellor, says she’s been encouraged to see the advancement in treatment since the 1990s.

“To actually see it materialize into a culturally safe, therapeutic community that recognizes all aspects of a human…is a really exciting turn and forward-thinking and progressive way of doing this sort of work,” she said at a news conference.

The centre replaces the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, which will be decommissioned in the future.

Malcolmson said the centre’s opening highlights the lack of previous investment in mental health and addictions over the past 16 years.

“The centre is part of a broader system of care to serve British Columbians with the most complex mental health and substance use needs so that people can get the help they need.”

The opening comes as the death toll surges because of toxic illicit drugs.

The latest data as of July from the BC Coroners Service reported it was the second-highest number of overdose deaths the province has recorded in a single month.

July marked the 17th consecutive month in which more than 100 residents in B.C. died from the toxic drug supply, the coroner said.

A public health emergency was declared in 2016 and since then the overdose death rate has almost doubled from 20.4 per 100,000 people to 39.7 per 100,000 in 2021.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2021.

Graham CoxGraham Cox

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