Mental Health in BC.

The B.C. Ministry of Health website says one in five British Columbians, or approximately 882,000 people, will experience some form of mental health disorder this year. It is also estimated that between one and three per cent  have a developmental disability, and that 30 to 40 per cent of those have co-occurring mental health issues known as a dual diagnosis. In fact, developmental disability is the most common disability in psychiatric hospitals; yet the needs of people with mental health disorders and dual diagnoses are largely unmet. This is not just about the people who are experiencing these problems. It is about our society and its well-being, because we all suffer the consequences of these short sighted, money grubbing, misdirected and careless decisions made by our provincial government.

 The Ministry of Health website also says: The Province of British Columbia is committed to a comprehensive, integrated, evidence-based system of mental health and addictions services. These services focus on health promotion, prevention, treatment and recovery, and support individuals’ and families’ resiliency and self-care.

 I say that’s crazy.

 I don’t mean to insult front line workers and mental health caregivers who I know are working diligently with the staffing, funding and mandates they are given to address the needs of this population. I do, however, mean to insult the government for lack of funding for much needed services that keep families intact and individuals safe from poverty, suffering, trauma, victimization and neglect.

 We have people who are not being productive as they could be, we  have people being incarcerated instead of medicated and/or receiving adequate therapies, whose recoveries are cut short because of lack of funding, or “cost effectiveness” as the government likes to put it. We have people homeless, addicted to drugs to ease their mental anguish, incarcerated or victimized for and by crimes that stem from disorders that could have been treated, and we have children in foster care that costs more than the continuum of care would have, and ultimately, individuals and families in distress.

 I should mention that the cost of dealing with untreated mental illness is in no way effective and those costs are just coming out of other Ministries, those that run the jails, shelters, welfare budgets, child protection/foster care, law enforcement, courts, and morgues.

Rich Coleman says “I think we are actually doing a pretty good job.”

 I say he has lost touch with reality.

Maybe he would like to tell that to parents in Kamloops who had their three youngest children removed by the B.C. government after they gave shelter to their violent, mentally ill adult son, who had been turned away from government care. He was living in a secure youth residence, with 24-hour supervision, but when he turned 19, making him an adult, the ministry was no longer responsible for him. There was no other government agency or community agency to house him. He left the home as soon as his siblings were apprehended, he is now charged with assaulting a police officer and robbery, only two of the three children are back  home. The other had a nervous  breakdown over the incident.

Would it had not been more cost effective to keep him housed and stable, rather than tossing him into the void that exists especially for young adults who have mental illness? We would have saved money on foster care and now the treatment of the other child, and avoided tossing him like garbage into the criminal justice system. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident, and families all across our province are desperate for help and not receiving anything but lip service on a website and a smug retort from the Minister responsible for Housing and Social Development. And for those whose conditions have costs them their families, friends, and caregivers, they are left to join the others without voices in this province, many you see on the streets. This is not indicative a pretty good job.

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