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.”

Just Posted

Garage sale brings out some unusual characters such as Langley’s Holly Zonneveld

A gaggle of comedic individuals unite in Surrey Little Theatre’s latest production.

Novice swimmers back in the water in Langley Saturday

Seven Langley Olympians Swim Club members made a strong showing at a seniors circuit meet Saturday.

Firefighters come to the rescue of Langley stroke survivors

Hope After Stroke receives major infusion after Cruise-In donation falls short of expectation.

Langley Township council considers Statewood impasse

Council has asked for information on projects of a local developer.

Giants player journeyed from Langley to World Juniors

Milos Roman represented Slovakia in the 2018 tournament.

VIDEO: New museums, community centre, condos proposed for Fort Langley

A new Township proposal is expected to go public this week.

Body discovered in burnt out car near Trail

Police report a body was found in the burnt out trunk of a 1999 Honda Civic

VIDEO: B.C. Lions sign defensive back T.J. Lee to contract for upcoming season

The four-year veteran had a team-high four interceptions and 49 tackles last season with B.C.

How an immigrant to Canada helped Donald Trump prove his mental health

Test that cleared Trump was developed by doctor associated with McGill and Sherbrooke universities

Premier touches on multiple topics ahead of Asia trade trip

Housing and childcare are expected to be the focus of the BC NDP’s first budget in February.

UPDATE: Friends mourn boy, 15, killed in Vancouver shooting

John Horgan: ‘No stone is to be left unturned until we find the perpetrator of this heinous crime’

VIDEO: Explorers uncover Canada’s deepest cave in Fernie

The cave, named Bisaro Anima, was confirmed to have broken the record on New Year’s Day

Vernon to host largest Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games in 2019

Games to be held Feb. 21-23, with more than 800 athletes expected to take part

Ex-BC Liberal staffer focused on ‘favourable’ ethnic communities in scandal: lawyer

Former communications director Brian Bonney’s sentencing hearing for breach of trust is underway

Most Read