Doors open at St. Paul's Hospital mental health emergency unit

Photograph by: Jason Payne , PNG

Nine beds, seclusion rooms, and safety measures such as doors with unbreakable glass and bathrooms free of anything that patients can harm themselves are part of a new unit at Vancouver's St. Paul's Hospital for people with severe mental illnesses or addictions.

The acute behavioural stabilization unit is part of a government promise to address what Vancouver police have described as a mental health crisis in the city.

Last fall, Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu and Mayor Gregor Robertson suggested in a five-point plan that an additional 300 long-term care beds are needed to treat people suffering from mental health challenges and substance abuse.

Health Minister Terry Lake said on Wednesday he's not sure if the new unit — the first of its kind in Vancouver — is enough to support the city's most vulnerable patients, but it's an important first step.

“This is nine more beds than we had before, and there will be times, I'm sure, when it won't be sufficient and other times when it will be more than enough to meet demand,” he said.

“We'll have to assess it and respond to the demand and as we learn from this, make improvements if necessary to ensure we are doing the right thing and meeting those needs.”

VIVIAN LUK Reports

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