These articles could be written about any community in southeastern Michigan.
Here are highlights from both pieces:
The Vancouver Island Health Authority has failed in its responsibility to provide addiction services, we suggested Saturday, and its failures have increased the homeless and panhandling on Victoria’s streets…
The Archie Courtnall Centre, where Barale had been based, was opened almost two years ago to provide short-term services for all psychiatric patients needing urgent help. Instead it has been swamped with those struggling with addictions.
Those patients need to be stabilized and then referred to detox and treatment centres. But VIHA has only seven adult detox beds in the capital region, not nearly enough treatment spaces and no supported residential beds to help them stay sober, Barale says. (VIHA plans to open 30 supported residential living beds for people dealing with mental illness and addiction in the region this year.) The critique is damning and credible.
The concerns have all been raised by others, including the terrible cruelty involved in turning away addicts seeking treatment knowing that the result will be continued drug use.
Strung out on cocaine or crystal meth, they pile up in the comfortable waiting room chairs of the new Archie Courtnall psychiatric facility and wait for help.
Psychiatrists say they aren’t qualified to deal with these patients’ addictions, homelessness or diseases, and can’t cope with their numbers. But they don’t know what else to do.
“It’s unethical to discharge them,” Dr. Anthony Barale, departing clinical director of the Archie Courtnall Centre said Wednesday.
With only seven Victoria adult detox beds, which often have a waiting list, Barale said psychiatrists don’t have anywhere to send the unexpected flood of addicted people.
When social workers and nurses can’t find facilities in town to place the addicted patients, Barale said he just breaks the rules and lets them stay.
“We let them detox here, spend five, six, seven days even though the [four] beds are three-day placements [intended for the mentally ill].”
Sometimes these individuals just sleep or “wear it off” while sitting in the waiting room. Some are put in the facility’s two secure rooms designed for mentally ill people who may harm themselves or others.