Councillor Fry wants to change how mental health and addiction crises are handled in Vancouver

Published Jun 22, 2020 8:24 PM

Calling for community-based crisis management strategy, informed by understanding and de-escalation


VANCOUVER, B.C. – On Tuesday June 23, 2020, City Councillor Pete Fry will introduce a motion aimed at changing how mental health and addiction crises are handled in the city of Vancouver.

“I hope this motion will be the foundation for systemic change in our city,” said Fry. “We need to transform the way we deal with mental health and addiction crises; what we’re currently doing simply isn’t working."

Fry’s motion asks Council to commit to supporting a community-based crisis management strategy informed by understanding and de-escalation, that promotes public safety and prioritizes non-policing interventions where applicable and appropriate as a first response. 

“Far too often police are called to the scene of incidents that could be handled by addiction, housing, or mental health specialists.

“As police themselves will attest, their presence can often cause a mental health crisis to escalate. When you are dealing with people who have experienced trauma they often have a history of negative interactions with police.  

“A couple years ago, CBC reported that 70 per cent of the people who died in encounters with police between 2000 and 2017, struggled with mental health issues or substance abuse or both — those numbers are heartbreaking, and avoidable.”

As part of the community-based crisis management strategy, Fry’s motion seeks to develop a pilot program of public information, education, and engagement that is inclusive and accessible to residents and businesses; informed by destigmatized, decolonial and anti-racist practice; rooted in non-violent crisis intervention; and will provide participants with a better understanding of mental health, addictions and trauma.

“I believe that a large part of the solution is informing and engaging the public. We’ve invited residents and businesses to the inner city, but not equipped them with the tools to de-escalate crisis situations or help someone who is experiencing a mental health or substance use emergency.

“We need to reprioritize public safety and non-policing interventions where appropriate as a first response. That means reducing call volumes for police, and redirecting more appropriate resources.”

Fry’s motion also asks that the Mayor on behalf of Council write to the Premier, Minister of Public Safety, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and Minister of Poverty Reduction requesting increased investment in social services directed to poverty, public safety, unstable housing, mental health and addictions in Vancouver, as well as support for a community-based crisis management strategy.

“The real solution here is a significant investment in the community, housing, and mental health services which are so desperately needed in our city. If we had adequate funding to deal with our housing, addiction and mental health crises, police would not be deployed as a substitute for the systemic changes these problems require.”


More Information:

Motion: Community-based Crisis Management Through Understanding and De-escalation