Coquitlam's vision for Riverview Lands includes a psychiatric hospital and rehab programs

Dec 19 2017, 10:59 am

Two years after closing its doors, a new plan for Riverview Hospital and the surrounding Riverview Lands has been announced by the City of Coquitlam.

The City’s main vision is to preserve the Riverview Lands, and use them as a health and
wellness campus dedicated primarily to helping a group they call the “Severely Addicted and Mentally Ill (SAMI)”.

SAMI individuals often have complex treatment needs and, according to the City, they are now placing pressure on hospital emergency departments and psychiatric units, as well as police and social services.

The vision notes that while Riverview Hospital was in the process of being downsized, there was a dramatic increase in drug use and addiction within the mental health and deinstitutionalized populations. Among the factors that attributed to the increase were the emergence of cheaper street drugs, as well as a shortage of psychiatric rehabilitation-focused outreach teams.

The re-opening of Riverview Hospital would re-establish specialized psychiatric treatment for the SAMI population by relocating programs which are currently provided by the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction.

On top of that, an Acute Care Hospital would be developed, which would provide emergency medical services to the people of Coquitlam and its surrounding communities. Should it go through, the hospital would also help reduce overcrowding at Royal Columbian Hospital’s Emergency Department, as a significant number of patients would be diverted to Riverview.

However, there are challenges ahead. Though only closed for a short period of time, some of Riverview’s buildings have deteriorated quite severely and will need significant repair before they are re-opened.

Of course, funding also remains a roadblock for an endeavour of this magnitude. Though Riverview’s yearly operating budget of $100 million was to be preserved and dedicated as annualized funding for provincial mental health programs when downsizing began, the vision suggests that the total amount transferred is “significantly less” than the hospital’s former operating budget.

For that reason, the City is recommending that the Ministry of Health determine the amount of the former operating budget that was not used for Riverview replacement, and make it available as funding for the proposed programs and services.

Though it is tough to nail down the costs of police, emergency and social services, the vision indicates reestablishing Riverview’s psychiatric treatment would result in major cost
avoidance for the Lower Mainland.

The Vancouver Police Department estimates that more than 20% of their officers’ time is now devoted to attending and transporting people who are mentally ill, with wait times for officers who have to keep custody of patients until they are processed at a hospital reaching as high as nine hours.

Read the full report: here.

Featured Image: Crease Clinic at Riverview Hospital via niftyniall