Pivot Legal Society is calling on the B.C. government to stop its proposed expansion of forced mental health and addictions treatment.
image: STAT News
Compulsory treatment must proceed.
I sympathize with the legal society but the reality is that the number of street people that are brain-injured is unprecedented.
Brain Injury Canada has identified that reality. There is a growing prevalence of brain injury due to substance abuse.
“Opioid overdoses can have catastrophic results, including brain injury,” says Brain Injury Canada’s website. “The effects of the brain injury will change them as well. It’s a scary experience that can be hard to put into words or share with others and can have a huge impact on mental health and wellbeing for both the person with a brain injury and you as a friend/family member.”
Under B.C.’s Mental Health Act, a person can be detained in a psychiatric facility if a physician deems it necessary for their own health and safety and for the safety of others.
When the act was constituted in 1965, no one could have imagined the growing number of British Columbians who would be brain damaged because of the toxic brew of drugs now available.
B.C. Premier David Eby says the province needs to expand the availability of “involuntary care” and to update the Mental Health Act to provide clearer options for intervention.
Under section 28 of the Mental Health Act, police have the authority to bring a person to a hospital to be assessed by a doctor if the police have reason to believe that the person who is suffering from a mental illness is likely to cause harm themselves or others if not treated.
Pivot Legal Society argues that compulsory care is an outdated approach that is harmful, degrading and often discriminatory.
I agree that compulsory care can be discriminatory. In 2021, I wrote about “A.H.,” a First Nations woman, who was wrongfully detained for almost a year under the Mental Health Act. In a court case between A.H. and the Fraser Health Authority, the Supreme Court of B.C. learned that A.H. had been held against her will and that she was not even found to be mentally ill. She would still be detained if lawyers had not presented her case pro bono.
But the issue has moved from indiscriminate use of the act to the political arena. Now the safety of citizens and business owners has become paramount.
Kamloops’ Reid Hamer-Jackson was swept into the mayor’s chair over such safety concerns.
Hamer-Jackson campaigned on establishing a recovery centre outside of the city centre and said transportation should be provided so that the homeless could be returned to their home communities. (One-half of Kamloops homeless have lived here longer than six years or are from Kamloops).
B.C.’s premier understands the impact of drug-induced brain injury.
“For every person that fatally overdoses, there are at least three people that are seriously brain injured,” Eby told The Globe and Mail. “And until you’re sufficiently brain-injured to the point of permanent long-term care, then people are being really spat out from the emergency room back into the community. So it’s cruel and it’s a miserable existence.”
The compassionate thing to do is force brain injured street people into treatment.