(File photo/Kelowna Capital News)

(File photo/Kelowna Capital News)

City council looks to understand mental health and substance use on Kelowna streets

Representatives from Interior Health gave council a presentation on the Mental Health Act on Monday

Concerns over getting people living on the street with mental health and substance use issues the help they need was a topic of frank discussion at council this week.

The medical director for the Interior Health Mental Health Substance Use network, Dr. Paul Carey, and network director Debi Morris spent more than an hour and a half speaking to council about the Mental Health Act (MHA) and answering their questions.

One of the biggest concerns from councillors was getting those living with mental health and substance use issues off the street and into treatment. Carey outlined four criteria where a person would be involuntarily admitted for treatment.

“Involuntary detention under the MHA is arguably the most profound infringement of human rights that is actually legislated outside of the criminal justice system in B.C.,” said Carey. “This is not something we take lightly for obvious reasons. But it’s also our obligation under the law to be detaining people under the law who we believe fulfill those criteria, and require treatment who themselves are not able to consent or request treatment at that point of care.”

Carey added such an individual would be assessed by a physician and detained under the MHA, and then a second physician would provide another assessment within a specified time frame, which would allow for legal detention and a review of rights.

Coun. Mohini Singh asked what supports Interior Health is providing the RCMP. Morris responded that they are reviewing their services and model.

“We are looking to make sure we are able to respond quickly to people wherever they come into our service,” said Morris. “Currently, many of our positions across the interior will either be embedded in our emergency departments, they see people who choose to walk through the door in a crisis. We also have positions that are community-based. So they’re able to go out to people where they’re at in the community.”

Morris pointed out that “crisis resolution” is a much longer journey.

“That’s really where our health care services step in,” she said. “One of the things we’ve been working on for about two years now, with regular meetings with RCMP, is to look at some of those places that embed the way we work together. Information sharing, protocols, memorandums of understanding, and a service review is off the back of that.”

Read More: Kelowna RCMP and Interior Health raise awareness around mental health

Coun. Charlie Hodge said he was initially angry with Interior Health and what is happening on Kelowna streets, but added he was pleased Carey and Morris attended council to explain what it is they do.

“It’s been really hard for us to understand what’s going on,” added Hodge. “So to understand a little better through your eyes, really helps us with our thoughts and decision making.”

Read More: B.C.’s mental health crisis is bad and getting worse

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