Secure care needed for those with mental health, addictions problems who attack strangers: report

The “low security care units” would be specifically designed for people with extremely violent behavior who could be admitted involuntarily

An investigation into prolific offenders and violent, unprovoked attacks by strangers released Wednesday recommends setting up therapy units where people with mental health and addiction problems who are at high risk of causing involuntary harm to others can be brought.

“The units would be intended for people who are unsuitable for forensic care but whose needs exceed the structural design and capacity of an open inpatient hospital unit,” said the report by Doug LePard, a former Vancouver Deputy Police Commissioner, and Amanda Butler, a health researcher and criminologist specializing in mental health and substance use disorders.

People can already be hospitalized under the Mental Health Act, but the “low security care units” would be specifically designed for those with extremely violent behavior. For example, in March, a man with a machete attacked another man at Beacon Hill Park.

According to the report, most health services and facilities in BC are not equipped or staffed to meet the needs of people with violent behavior.

“These units should be designed to provide intensive rehabilitation, social, housing, educational and employment services,” with strong accountability mechanisms to ensure compliance with the Mental Health Act and independent legal advice, the report said.

A secure care unit would “support those people who may be hospitalized who need a higher safety margin, not just to protect the public but themselves,” Butler said at a news conference with the Secretary of Public Safety in Vancouver on Wednesday and Attorney General Mike Farnworth and Attorney General Murray Rankin.

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Farnworth said many of the report’s 28 recommendations focus on work already underway, but also highlight how much more the province needs to do.

“This report acknowledges the complexity of the challenge and highlights a number of actions that could help improve safety in our communities,” Farnworth said.

He said three recommendations the province will immediately focus on are the return of the 2012 abolished pilot program to deal with productive offenders, a special provincial committee to coordinate service scheduling for those with complex health needs, and the pilot program proposed by the BC First Nations Justice Council based at the Prince George Indigenous Justice Center to discourage backsliding among First Nations.

In early May, BC launched an investigation into prolific criminals and escalating attacks on strangers amid calls for action from business leaders and the Urban Mayors’ Caucus, a group of mayors from 13 cities.

Announcing the investigation in the spring, then-Attorney General David Eby and Farnworth acknowledged the community’s concern at the increase in “unprovoked indiscriminate assault, violence, graffiti, shoplifting or property damage” by a small group of prolific offenders.

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“While overall crime rates have declined, communities are grappling with challenges associated with repeated offending” by small numbers of people “as well as unprovoked, often violent, attacks by strangers,” Rankin said Wednesday.

“This crime is highly visible and whether it is a property, felony or violent crime, it has a profound impact on victims and their sense of security in our province,” Rankin said Wednesday.

Although BC’s Non-Violent Crime Severity Index (CSI) score decreased 7.55 percent in 2021, the CSI score for violent crimes increased 4.32 percent. Victoria’s nonviolent CSI decreased 20 percent, but her violent CSI increased 21 percent between 2020 and 2021.

The report says research shows the pandemic has worsened everything from mental health to drug use and reduced the number of people being tried and charged with violating bail conditions.

The report also notes that the number of people suffering from methamphetamine-induced psychosis has “exploded” in emergency departments across BC

This finding coincides with an increase in reported methamphetamine use, according to the BC Center for Disease Control.

In addition, the report states, repeated non-fatal overdoses lead to increasing rates of acquired brain injuries, which can lead to aggression and restlessness.

“Resources are woefully inadequate to meet the needs of this population and an urgent response is needed, including improved screening and outpatient and inpatient treatment options for people with acquired brain injuries,” the report said.

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The report does not recommend mandatory involuntary treatment for people who present with life-threatening substance use but do not pose a risk to others.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, co-chairs of the Urban Mayors’ Caucus, petitioned for action in December and wrote Eby on 5 cases elsewhere.

Basran said at Wednesday’s press conference that BC city residents want action and the report’s recommendations put the province on the right track.

According to Helps, as part of the mayors’ review of repeat offenders, 200 people had 11,000 police interactions.

BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau issued a statement saying if the province wants to see less crime in the future, it needs affordable housing, accessible treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, safe drug supplies, food security and action strengthen for public health. and address the underlying problems of poverty and systemic racism.

“This report also makes it clear that the increase in indiscriminate violent attacks and crimes we are seeing is a direct result of the toxic drug crisis continuing and mental health not being part of our healthcare system,” she said.

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