Psych unit to stabilize youth in crisis delayed to 2017

CAPSU unit in Surrey will add 10 short-stay mental health beds that currently do not exist in Fraser Health region

It will take longer than originally thought to open a new 10-bed unit in Surrey to stabilize potentially suicidal children and teens in mental health crisis.

Fraser Health had aimed to open the new Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Stabilization Unit (CAPSU) by the fall of 2016, but that estimate has been pushed back to spring of 2017.

Health authority officials say they had to wait for final approval from the province – which did not come until last spring – and have since determined the 2016 target was too optimistic.

Once open, the state-of-the-art unit will take children and youth aged six to 17 who are in crisis with acute psychiatric problems for short stays of five to seven days.

Fraser Health is home to more young people than any other health region yet it has no short-stay stabilization unit for youth.

Children in crisis must instead go to a six-bed unit in Vancouver at B.C. Children’s Hospital, if it’s available, or else they’re treated in a hospital pediatric ward or in emergency. Adolescents can go to the adolescent psychiatry unit at SMH or one of the adult psych units, which is not ideal.

The $4.7-million CAPSU unit will serve the entire region, nearly tripling the province’s capacity to deal with kids in crisis. It will be built in the old emergency department of Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Contributions of $1 million from Cloverdale Paint and $300,000 from Coast Capital Savings through Surrey’s hospital foundation are to enhance the facility with decor, furnishings and other components beyond the basic budget. The foundation has a target of $2 million under its Kids Mental Health Matters campaign at championsforcare.com.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds in B.C. after car crashes.

B.C. Nurses Union president Gayle Duteil said Fraser should reopen an adolescent psych unit in Abbotsford that was shut down in 2009.

“Fraser Heath has repeatedly stated the new teen mental health unit in Surrey would be open in 2016,” Duteil said. “Telling youth and their families who are in crisis that they’ll have to wait a year and a half for a bed is not safe patient care.”

Fraser spokesperson Tasleem Juma said the adolescent psych unit in Abbotsford was underused and youth who needed it could be treated at Surrey’s adolescent psych unit. So the Abbotsford unit was converted to an adolescent day treatment program.

She said the CAPSU unit will be a significant improvement when it opens, but rejected suggestions youth mental health services are unacceptable in the meantime.

“No child is turned away,” Juma said. “We have a whole network of services.”

An Abbotsford mother with a suicidal daughter in need of inpatient care spoke out at a Fraser Health board meeting last month, demanding swifter action.

A coroner’s inquest is planned into the suicides of three people – one of them a 19-year-old – who took their lives after being released from Abbotsford Regional Hospital.

Fraser Health hospitals have seen the number of emergency visits by young people with mental health problems double over the past five years.