Opposiition leader Rich Coleman speaks to Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver Sept. 28, 2017. (UBCM)

Opposiition leader Rich Coleman speaks to Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver Sept. 28, 2017. (UBCM)

Coleman calls for courage on mental illness

Local politicians must risk defeat for supportive housing

Opposition leader Rich Coleman used his first and likely only speech at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention to urge local governments to face “the eye of the storm” and move ahead with more supportive housing for people with mental illness and addictions.

Speaking to the convention in Vancouver Thursday, Coleman related the story of former Nanaimo mayor Gary Korpan, who was in office when Coleman first took over the provincial housing file in 2004 and began a 15-year push to expand services.

Korpan told his council to “step up” and identify five sites to house mentally addicted people, Coleman said, facing the hundreds of angry people who descend on every public hearing for those kinds of services in communities across the province.

Those five sites are built today,” Coleman said. “Gary lost the next election, because he stood up for what he thought was important.”

Over the next dozen years, Coleman would carry on a push to expand supportive housing through every ministry he held, from forests to public safety to natural gas development. His program included building shelters and buying up hotels and motels from Vancouver’s downtown east side to the B.C. northwest, to convert to facilities for the hardest-to-house people in society.

By the end of his term in government, B.C. is spending $2.8 billion a year across ministries to support mental health and addiction treatment.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s supportive housing or treatment for mental health and addictions, whether it’s therapeutic communities, whether it’s a 28-day program, we need to come to grips as a society to make sure those services continue for people and can be improved upon as we go forward,” Coleman said, receiving warm applause from UBCM delegates.

Coleman described visiting the Baldy Hughes therapeutic community near Prince George, and speaking with a 21-year-old aboriginal youth who had been there to recover in a drug and alcohol-free environment. He had started sniffing glue at age 12.

“He told me when I sat and talked with him that for the first time in his life, after a year, he could actually use the word love,” Coleman said. “He said, ‘I didn’t know I could actually like myself’.”

Coleman told delegates they need to consider extreme measures for extreme cases.

“Some of those solutions may be therapeutic,” he said. “Some may be almost like state care for people who just can’t get there, whose mental health and the issues that they’ve had in life are so huge for them that they don’t have the ability to get there.”

UBCM

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Viking Air Twin Otter takes off midway down the runway at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport on Jan. 13, 2021 during a series of training flights. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
New plan recognizes industrial strengths of Alberni Valley airport

Strategic plan identifies AVRA as Vancouver Island’s premier industrial airport

A piece of artwork from Port Alberni artist Jim Sears. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
ARTS AROUND: Port Alberni artist shares watercolour images of the coast

Rollin Art Centre holding a garden clean-up on April 18

The Alberni Golf Club is located on Cherry Creek Road. FILE PHOTO
ALBERNI GOLF: Parhar picks up win in Partner with a Pro

Next Sunday, April 18 is a two man best ball

Two of the heritage buildings from McLean Mill National Historic Site that have been restored at the Port Alberni tourist attraction. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
McLean Mill application breaks new ground for ALC

Process just another ‘misstep’ by city, says critic

Coulson Aviation’s newest Chinook helicopter, N43CU, takes to the air above the Alberni Valley Regional Airport following a complete airframe conversion into a helitanker, April 8, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY BILL MCLEOD)
Coulson Aviation’s newest helitanker takes flight

Converted Chinook helitanker off to U.S. for new paint job

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

(Amandalina Letterio - Capital News)
Kelowna demonstrators show support for Vancouver Island logging activists

Two Kelowna men stood atop a pedestrian bridge on Harvey Avenue to raise awareness about old-growth forests

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read