How will Esquimalt-Metchosin candidates increase mental health and housing services?

We sent MLA candidates your election questions. Here’s what we heard.

“How do you plan to increase mental health and housing services?” That’s a question we at The Discourse heard from you after we launched a poll asking what you think should top the B.C. election agenda. Our goal is to put you in the driver’s seat of the election conversation because we believe you should guide it, not the candidates or parties.

Leading up to the election we are publishing answers to questions you sent. Today, the question is : How do you plan to increase mental health and housing services for the unhoused populations of Victoria and Vancouver?

As of Oct. 20, The Discourse received answers from two of the four candidates via email. BC Liberal Party candidate RJ Senko will not be responding to questions due to his full schedule, according to a spokesperson from the BC Liberal team. The Discourse reached out to Independent candidate Desta McPherson over Facebook – since no other contact information could be found – but has not heard back yet. This story will be updated if additional responses come in.

I’ll be rotating the candidates’ order of responses with each story we publish. Here are their responses. I’ve copied them directly from the emails they sent.

Andy MacKinnon, BC Green Party

Clearly more resources (money and health care professionals) need to be invested in support of the unhoused populations of Victoria and Vancouver. This is an issue that was ignored for many years under the BC Liberals, and the NDP have made some (but not nearly enough) progress in dealing with it. And we need all levels of government – federal, provincial and municipal – involved in solutions.

Mitzi Dean, BC New Democratic Party

As we now deal with two public health emergencies – COVID-19 and the opioid crisis – we will do it with a comprehensive range of responses. We will keep accelerating B.C.’s actions across the full continuum of care: prevention, harm reduction, safe prescription medications, treatment, and recovery.

To do that, we will expand the availability of treatment beds along with recovery, detox and after-care facilities across the province. Complex care housing will provide an increased level of support – including more access to nurses and psychiatrists – for B.C.’s most vulnerable who need more intensive care than supportive housing provides. 

With 2,800 units of supportive housing already built in just a few years, we’ll increase that total to at least 5,000 units through our 10-year Homes For BC plan – helping to curb existing encampments and prevent new encampments from being created. For those moving on from supportive housing, new rent supplements will help tenants keep their costs down. We will freeze rents to the end of 2021 and cap increases after that. And we will bring in an income-tested renter’s rebate of $400 a year for households earning up to $80,000 annually that are not already receiving other rental support.

To better support communities and local police forces, we’ll invest more in community-based mental health and social services so there are more trained front-line workers to help people in crisis. We’ll continue to fund mental health intervention teams like the six new assertive community treatment (ACT) teams recently announced for communities experiencing increased challenges with vulnerable residents.

Through our new community safety fund, local governments can apply for funding to help them tackle street disorder, cleanliness, and public safety. The resources will help strengthen their ability to respond to challenges posed to businesses and neighbourhoods by increased visible homelessness as a result of the pandemic.  

A handful of B.C. communities have already begun connecting front-line workers from different health, safety, and social service sectors to identify and help vulnerable people before a traumatic personal event takes place. We’ll work with interested communities to expand this successful model.

Further reading:

  • In the BC NDP platform, pledges to scale up the response to the opioid crisis, focus mental health initiatives on youth and young adults, develop complex care housing and expand access to counselling are made. Reducing poverty, supporting communities and investing in community-based mental health services are also in the platform.
  • The BC Liberal Platform pledges to increase addiction-treatment and recovery programs, increase mental health supports, invest in connecting unhoused British Columbians with a home and supports they need and expand teams and supports to respond to mental health-related emergency calls.
  • Mental health falls under the comprehensive health care section of the BC Green Party platform. The party pledges to roll mental health care into the Medical Services Plan, support student mental health, use integrated mental health crisis teams for wellness checks and enhance outreach services for the homeless community. [end]

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