During swing through Okanagan, David Eby suggests involuntary addictions and mental health care

Involuntary addiction care?

B.C.'s attorney general and BC NDP leadership candidate believes "governments of many different stripes" have let those with mental health and addiction issues down for decades.

David Eby says it's time to change that.

Speaking with Castanet News during a tour of the Okanagan, Eby pointed to the decision to close the Riverview psychiatric hospital in Coquitlam back in the 1980's, saying governments have not provided the necessary supports to those who would have otherwise ended up at the facility.

"I think we are at a point now with the crisis in many downtown communities related to mental health and addiction that we are going to have to deliver that," said Eby.

"The challenge for governments is that it is expensive, it is time consuming to set up, but it is very obvious to me it is necessary."

Both mental health and addictions are at the centre of issues around both crime and homelessness in downtowns in all corners of the province.

It's a vicious cycle that spans multiple ministries, jurisdictions and agencies including the health system, policing and the justice system, leaving a frustrated public asking what is being done.

Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance has been an outspoken critic of what has become a pattern of catch-and-release between law enforcement and the court system.

One recent example involved a repeat offender who was allegedly waving a hammer at people in downtown Kelowna just hours after he had been released from police custody.

Police said the man has substance abuse and mental health issues but resisted outreach support.

Eby says people must recognize the province is obligated to follow federal law, including changes around the ability of courts of hold people on bail.

Because of that, Eby says the challenge is to become more aggressive in the use of mental health and drug treatment intervention.

"And, that means things like involuntary mental health and addiction care for people to at least give them a chance to survive, but also to respond to the crisis they are obviously in."

The BC government shelved plans earlier this year to involuntarily treat youth after overdose after pushback from experts and drug users.

"It also means increased availability of voluntary drug treatment so that people are able to escape the cycle they are in," Eby continued.

"If there is a gap to our response to the overdose crisis and issues of street disorder and crime, that is the gap I see, and I think that is our biggest opportunity to address some of these issues. If I am elected leader, people will see action on that."

Eby is running against climate activist Anjali Appadurai for leadership of the BC NDP and premier, which will be announced on Dec. 3.

More Kelowna News