Tri-Cities call on province to share healing centre policing costs

The Red Fish Healing Centre in Coquitlam, B.C. Global News

A treatment centre in the Tri-Cities needs more provincial support in order to operate safely, the mayor of Port Coquitlam, B.C., says.

Red Fish Healing Centre is located in Coquitlam, which shares a police detachment with the City of Port Coquitlam.

“It provides treatment to individuals who are suffering from mental health,” Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West said. “And often addiction issues.”

West said it is an incredibly important facility.

“We were all very pleased when the province announced that it would be opening,” he said. “But unfortunately, not enough thought was put into making sure that all the support was going to be in place so that it can operate successfully.”

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West explained that right now a number of RCMP officers, who serve both Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam, are being drawn to Red Fish to mostly locate people who have walked away from the facility.

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“It’s happening to such a degree and with such frequency that it’s taking about four police officers equivalent (full-time equivalent) a year away from policing the City of Port Coquitlam and having to locate people who have walked away from a provincial facility. Now, that’s important work, but it’s another example of the province setting something up and handing a bill to local property taxpayers and saying, ‘Here you deal with the fallout’.”

West said as it is a provincial facility, it welcomes people from across B.C.

“The fact that it’s Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam taxpayers who are having to pay for all the policing costs related to the facility is just simply unfair. And so the province needs to step in and they need to finish the job they started, which is ensuring the facility has the support it needs to be successful. And that means funding the policing costs.”

No one from the provincial government was available to speak on Friday but Jennifer Whiteside’s office, who is the minister of mental health and addictions, said in a statement that the government is expanding the Red Fish model of care to other regions of B.C., so more people can receive complex mental health and addictions care.

“This model of care is working,” the statement said. “Preliminary evaluation shows that 95 per cent of Red Fish patients are seeing improved mental health between admission and discharge.

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“The Red Fish model of care is part of government’s work to build a comprehensive, integrated system of care for mental health and addiction in B.C.”

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Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart has always been a passionate believer in mental health and treatment facilities.

“We need them,” he said. “But when they cause this much need for local policing, they become a barrier to the next community that might be willing to accept them.

Stewart said when someone is reported missing and they are likely at risk due to their situation or history with the police, then there is a protocol that has to be followed and perhaps does err on the side of caution.

He said the Red Fish Healing Centre is the newest provincial facility in their community but prior to that, the province built and completed a homeless shelter.

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“That has proven to be quite a drain on emergency services due to some of their protocols that have just been examined by an expert and found wanting,” Stewart added.

“But long before that, the forensic psychiatric hospital which has been Coquitlam for most of my life, let’s face it, we have a 100-year history of some of the province’s largest mental health facilities. And we’re proud of that.

“But if the way we operate them today is causing an impact of several police officers on local police departments, it’s something that we need to address because we want these built elsewhere. We want other communities to embrace the need for mental health services in their community.”

Stewart said he has spoken with Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and he acknowledged the challenges those kinds of facilities create but he did not express any interest in trying to make the community whole with regards to policing and costs.

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