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Mayor’s Task Force on Mental Health and Addictions meets as part of international conference

September 23 2015

"We want to make sure Vancouver is a city that supports those with mental health challenges and treats addiction as a health issue, not a criminal one,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson

Vancouver City Hall sign

The Mayor's Task Force on Mental Health and Addictions met yesterday as part of the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership Conference.

The Task Force received status updates on a number of projects underway to help those suffering from mental illness and addictions, including new information from the VPD detailing positive impacts of outreach and community treatment programs.

“Our Task Force on Mental Health and Addictions continues to focus on tangible steps the City can take to work with other organizations to help many of our most vulnerable citizens,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Whether it’s investing more than $60 million into affordable housing this year, supporting two new Aboriginal Wellness Centres, or funding more community outreach programs, we want to make sure Vancouver is a city that supports those with mental health challenges and treats addiction as a health issue, not a criminal one.”

Arrests made under Mental Health Act begin to stabilize

Data from the Vancouver Police Department shows that for the first time in years, the number of arrests officers made under Section 28 of the BC Mental Health Act has begun to stabilize. A partnership between the Vancouver Police Department and Vancouver Coastal Health is beginning to see fewer people requiring emergency health or police services, among those who receive the multi-disciplinary Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team (290 clients) and Assertive Outreach Team (AOT) support (300 clients).

Coordinated services have resulted in a 40% reduction in hospital emergency department visits for clients from pre-admission to ACT teams, and 45% reduction in days spent in hospital for mental health issues. The Assertive Outreach Team (AOT), providing one month of transition support for people being discharged from hospital, is also seeing positive long-term results. AOT involvement led to an 87% reduction in emergency department visits for clients.

The VPD have also experienced a 50% decrease in Mental Health Act apprehensions for the 80 people in the study cohort receiving ACT team supports, a 51% reduction in violent offences, and 71% reduction in street disorder. Of the 86 clients in the study cohort receiving AOT support to date, there has been a 90% reduction in Mental Health Act apprehensions, an 85% decrease in negative police contact, and a 77% decrease in violent offences.

Partnership fosters positive results, says chief constable

“Our ongoing work in partnership with mental health professionals is fostering positive results. We are seeing the number of mental health apprehensions stabilizing in 2015,” says Chief Constable Adam Palmer.

“Of particular note, the Assertive Community Treatment and Assertive Outreach Teams have noticed significant reductions in mental health apprehensions, police calls for service, and emergency hospital visits within the group of clients we are assisting.”  

About the international conference

The International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) Conference taking place in Vancouver this week is a unique and exciting opportunity to connect the cutting edge work of the task force with significant international expertise. This expertise includes people with lived experience, researchers, and non-profit and government representatives to discuss promising approaches and best practices relating to advancements in mental health leadership. The conference is co-hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Commission.

“It was at the IIMHL conference in 2007 that the Government of Canada announced the creation of the MHCC and this year, just a short 8 years later, we are proud to be conference co-hosts here in beautiful Vancouver,” says Louise Bradley, President and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. “It is good to know that there are so many friends and colleagues around the world who are dedicated to advancing the mental health agenda and making life better for people living with mental health problems and illnesses.”

Guests from the conference joined task force members for a City-hosted session on September 22, as well as three days of pre-conference sessions from September 21 – 23. Updates were shared with international experts, as the task force reported out on priority actions and progress made to date, with a focus on creating a community crisis response system that ensures timely access to community service resources.

About the The Mayor’s Task Force

The Mayor’s Task Force on Mental Health and Addictions has made significant progress in implementing the 23 priority actions set-out by City Council in September 2014 to improve the health and housing needs of Vancouver residents living with mental health issues and addictions.

Since the Phase 1 report was approved by Council in September, five dedicated working groups have formed to launch Phase 2, implementing the 23 priority actions.

The task force includes over 60 members, including health care executives, government representatives, academics, non-profit leaders, and advisors with lived experience.  

Learn about the Mayor’s Task Force on Mental Health and Addictions