BCNU shocked mental health cuts
While metro mayors and police are demanding the government give more support to the mentally ill, nurses are shocked to learn that the Fraser Health Authority is planning to cut services at mental health clinics.
Evening clinics will be phased out beginning September 1st in at least six centres – Surrey, Langley, New Westminster,Tri Cities, White Rock and Burnaby.
“Night clinics offer invaluable services to people who struggle with mental illness, many of whom can’t get there during the day because of their work, volunteer or school schedules,” said Debra McPherson, President of the BC Nurses Union.
“It makes no sense for Fraser Health to be reducing mental health services, when the need is greater than ever.”
Some of the evening clinics have been open twice per week until 8pm. The facilities accept walk-in clients as well as others referred by physicians, covering a range of mental illnesses – from schizophrenia to anxiety or addiction issues. Clients depend on health care professionals for counselling, administering medication, group therapy and many other services.
Soon those patients will only be able to get the help they need between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30pm.
The Fraser Health Authority plan comes at a time when Canada’s police chiefs are demanding governments “step up” and provide better health services for the mentally ill. Vancouver’s police chief Jim Chu, president of the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, said “the number of people apprehended by police under the Mental Health Act has more than quadrupled since 2002 – more than 2600 people in Vancouver so far this year.” Metro Mayors also want more action and some are adding their voices to the call for Riverview Hospital to be reopened.
“Mental health services need to be accessible to all,” says McPherson.“They need to be maintained at current levels, not cut. Many of the clients are the working poor and unlikely to have jobs that allow them to take time off during the day for doctor’s appointments. They may wind up not getting the help they need in a time of crisis.”
The BCNU is also concerned about an ongoing lack of support for people in residential care units, where many clients have mental health issues, including dementia.