September 26, 2020
Re: Letter to British Columbia MLA Candidates and Party Leaders, 2020 Election
Dear MLA Candidates and Party Leaders:
As your party refines its mental health platform for the upcoming election, the BC Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) would like to call your attention to some key issues that we consider to be of vital importance for people with serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and severe psychosis, and their families.
BCSS is a community-based organization founded in 1982 that provides education and support for families within British Columbia impacted by schizophrenia and severe psychosis. These serious mental illnesses often have terrifying psychotic symptoms (e.g. paranoia, hallucination, delusions, and thought disorders) and due to ongoing cognitive losses, there are also additional issues, including homelessness, poverty, family disruption, criminal involvement and unemployment. Yet with adequate treatment and services people can recover.
Families are often the prime caregivers and many are in desperate need for support to help obtain information and services for their loved ones. BCSS Regional Educators are currently providing this vital frontline service throughout the province, but government funding will cease March 2021.
BCSS members hope the key issues outlined below will help shape your party’s platform:
I. Continuing BCSS Funding
BCSS has received funding from the Ministry of Health since 2016 to hire Regional Educators to increase awareness, and provide support for families across the province. This funding comes to an end in March 2021. We have many testimonials on the value of BCSS programming. Families in this province desperately need this service, especially during these challenging times.
II. Improved Access to Psychiatric Hospital Beds
BCSS often hears complaints that due to a shortage of psychiatric beds, people have to wait on gurneys in Emergency Departments, sometimes for days until a bed is available. A joint BCSS and BC Psychiatric Association report on this urgent issue is available at: https://www.bcss.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Psychiatric-Beds-Report-.pdf.
A report from Vancouver police also addresses “the growing crisis of people with severe untreated mental illnesses.”
III. Support for the Right to Treatment in the Mental Health Act
BC Courts have found the purpose of the Mental Health Act is to provide treatment. Without treatment, people do not recover and are detained for longer periods of time, thus losing their right to liberty. BCSS appreciates the Attorney General supporting the current Mental Health Act, which recognizes a right to treatment. BCSS wants all candidates to support it. If involuntary patients can refuse treatment, the consequences may include: long detentions, assaults on nurses and fellow patients, seclusion and restraints, and unnecessary ethical issues for doctors and nurses.
For more information visit: https://www.bcss.org/public-policy-advocacy/bcmhacharterchallenge/.
IV. Support for Canada’s Reservation in Ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
BCSS asks for your support on Canada’s stance on the CRPD, with which the BC Attorney General concurs. The UN official committee on the CRPD wants all Canadian provinces to ban involuntary admission, involuntary treatment, community treatment orders, and the Not Criminally Responsible on Account of Mental Disorder Defense. If Canada accedes to that, every year there could be about 20,000 British Columbians with serious mental illness who refuse voluntary admission and would, in turn, be turned away from hospitals and the opportunity to get well. People with acute psychosis would continue to have worsening symptoms that impact their own health and potentially end up in jail, homeless, or causing harm to themselves or others. Those whose mental illness ended in a ‘criminal act’ would be sent to jail without treatment, and not to a forensic psychiatric hospital.
We hope to see our concerns represented in your platform addressing mental health issues. Please let us know if you would like more information and/or would like to discuss these matters further. It is crucial we take the necessary action on the above issues, so we can continue making advancements and providing much-needed support during these challenging times and into the future.
Thank you for your consideration.
President, BC Schizophrenia Society
Chief Executive Officer