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Premier rejects UBCM call to reopen Riverview

Premier Christy Clark takes questions from reporters Friday in front of a rendering of the future bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel.  - Jeff Nagel / Black Press
Premier Christy Clark takes questions from reporters Friday in front of a rendering of the future bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel.
— image credit: Jeff Nagel / Black Press

B.C. won't reopen the closed Riverview Hospital, not even in a modern form.

That was Premier Christy Clark's response Friday to a vote earlier in the day by the Union of B.C. Municipalities to support reviving the old psychiatric institution.

"We're not considering that," Clark said. "The folks that we are all so concerned about who are living homeless in British Columbia are not from Riverview. It's a new set of problems we need to deal with."

Clark said she shared UBCM delegates' desire to improve mental health care and highlighted provincial investments in affordable housing and treatment.

She also said an improved economy will help pay for more social programs.

"As we grow the economy, we will grow our ability to be able to look after what appeared in the past to be these unsolvable problems."

Municipal leaders endorsed a Maple Ridge resolution calling for the re-establishment of Riverview as a modern centre of excellence, with patient-centred wraparound care.

Some delegates stressed it must be a new model, not a return to what Victoria Coun. Lisa Helps called the "checkered history" of primarily warehousing psychiatric patients.

Maple Ridge Coun. Bob Masse cited a low number of psychiatric beds per capita in B.C. and longer waits than other provinces.

He said the mentally ill are ending up in prisons, alleys, doorways and "in our morgues."

Also passed was a Delta resolution calling for the creation by senior governments of early intervention centres to house mental health or addictions patients who a doctor decides may be a risk to themselves or others.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson says police are spending too much time dealing with calls involving the mentally ill and the current system doesn't do enough to prevent those individuals from harming themselves or others.

She recounted the story of one young Delta man who was taken by police to hospital and was released from care later with some pills and a bus ticket home. He went straight to the Alex Fraser Bridge and jumped to his death.

"There is a clear need for facilities where these individuals can be housed," Jackson said.

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