A few weeks ago, Julian Daly, CEO of Our Place Society, wrote an op-ed calling for involuntary care for those suffering from the most severe mental health conditions and/or addictions. As a social service provider, it took courage for Mr. Daly to make this, as he put it, “provocative and to some controversial” recommendation.
It also took insight, experience, and a deep concern for those most marginalized. Most of us agree the old institutions were inhumane. However, the need for a new and improved complex care system for the small but impactful set of people we see suffering on the streets is undeniable.
For many, a stable address forms the base from which their life-changing journey begins. For some with severe trauma, mental illness, and/or addictions, however, there is need for involuntary, 24-hour, secure care to properly support their journey to recovery. For this small group, the current model of community-based services is simply insufficient.
Tertiary care, managed on a human scale, with the goal of independent living is missing from our community’s offerings. It is critical we strike a balance between accommodating individual rights and protections and preventing our present reality: people dying in despair – and literally dying – in the streets. These are our neighbours, family, and friends, and we are failing them.
Former NDP MLA (now Nanaimo Mayor) Leonard Krog has been calling for this type of care for over a year. Julian Daly – a local social service provider – recognizes the same need. I, a representative of the downtown business community, have been asking for this long before I became co-chair of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness. Regardless of politics, or sectoral occupation, many arrive at the same conclusion: we need tertiary complex care.
Those in political office will tread carefully in exploring this idea, and there will be strong voices against it; but when government steps into this arena to consider involuntary care, I am confident they will find much of the public is already there.
Jeff Bray is the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.