Monthly Archives: June 2021

When the Involuntary Option is Ignored – Tragedy Follows

By Marvin Ross

If involuntary committal and treatment works when applied properly, what happens when it is not used appropriately – disaster. My friends at the Treatment Advocacy Center in the US call those instances preventable tragedies and there are many examples of those. To my mind, Vince Li is the most striking.

Mr Li was psychotic and untreated when, on a Greyhound Bus in Manitoba, he attacked his seatmate, killed him and almost decapitated him. A few years prior to this horrendous event, police in Toronto picked him up wandering along the 12 lane highway 401 that runs across the north end of the city on its route from the Detroit/Windsor border to the Ontario/Quebec border. Police, recognizing his fragile mental state, took him to the nearest hospital.

The hospital kept him for a few days and then discharged him back into the community with no follow up which, unfortunately, is not unusual. He continued to get worse until the unfortunate incident on the bus. Despite the enormous outcry from the community howling for blood, he was found not criminally responsible (NCR) and sentenced to a secure forensic psychiatric facility. The public should not have been angry about the NCR but rather about his being ignored by medicine and society until he decompensated to the point he murdered.

Over time and with proper treatment involving the drugs that the anti-psychiatry adherents vilify, he got better to the point where he could go out into the community for short supervised periods, move to a half way house and to an unconditional discharge. The part I do not agree with is the unconditional discharge which means that he does not report to anyone. Given his history, he might regress to psychosis but having him monitored would prevent that. So far, all has been well.

There are many family members killed by their psychotic children who could not get appropriate psychiatric care until after they killed, received not criminally responsible verdicts from the court and were provided with treatment in forensic facilities as a result. Over the years, I’ve written about a number of these events and once had the opportunity to meet someone who had killed both his parents. He was a very polite, quiet, sane young man.

The situation in some instances is so bad that parents live in fear of their psychotic kids, keep their bedroom doors locked at night and have a knife or some other defensive weapon handy.

One other aspect of involuntary committal is Community Treatment Orders (CTO) or Assertive Community Treatment (ACT). These order enable someone to live in the community provided they comply with their treatment. If they don’t, they get hauled back to hospital. One anecdotal bit of evidence can be found in a court challenge to CTO’s by an anti-psychiatry group in Toronto called the Empowerment Council.

Their witness as to the harms of CTO’s actually provided evidence of their effectiveness.  Amy Ness had, prior to being put on a CTO, been involuntarily committed for showing violent behaviour in 2004. In 2007, while hospitalized, Ms. Ness kicked her mother in the back and hit her repeatedly. Then, in 2009, Ms. Ness grabbed a large kitchen knife and marched upstairs toward her mother after discovering a magazine about schizophrenia. In another incident, Ms. Ness kicked and punched the emergency department psychiatrist. By the time she was given a CTO in 2009, she had five hospitalizations.

Since then, while on a CTO, the judge pointed out, she takes her medication and sees her case worker on a regular basis. She has not been hospitalized, she maintains her housing and she works as a volunteer, has a job and takes courses. She does think, however, that the CTO is an attack on her personal dignity. Needless to say, they lost their court challenge.

The best one-liner on the topic (and modern society likes one-liners) was given by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart on the 60 Minutes episode “untreated mental illness an imminent danger?”. Chicago’s Cook County jail is one of the largest institutions in North America housing the mentally ill. Sheriff Dart said “the irony is so deep, you have a society that finds it wrong to have people warehoused in state mental institutions but those very same people were OK if we warehouse them in jail. You’ve got to be kidding me!”

Is it really better to have untreated sick people in jail or homeless in place of actually treating them and helping them to get better? That is really what it comes down to.

For the final word, I’d like to quote Jude Mersereau, author of What’s So Funny? The Autobiography of a Professional Schizophrenian, Artist, Singer, and Public Speaker.

As a lifetime Schizophrenian I have learned to weigh the options of compliance/mental immaturity and their binary results, I have always been able to sign myself into Hospital. Mind you, some of those hospitalizations had been revised to an involuntary stay by my Psychiatrist within 72 hours. I have gleaned the importance of medication, also honesty with myself and the professionals. We all need to realize that it takes years to become ill, and therefore a comparable time to get well. First Hell, then Well. So I take my medication, and shut up if my day is not perfection.(most days) In Canada we have the best treatments, meds, follow-up, intervention and family support and we still can choose to live as a street-ranter with raggedy clothing and, God forbid ,jailtime for acting out instead of “going in”

the choice is yours, friends.

Paul Bernardo’s Parole Hearing

By Dr David Laing Dawson

We don’t need to re-traumatize the families of the victims of Paul Bernardo. Nor do we need long discussions of “behaviour while incarcerated”, “taking responsibility”, “remorse”, “change”, “finding Jesus”, “redemption”, “participation in programs.”

Here are the only two questions that need be asked:

1. Given the opportunity, is Paul Bernardo likely to re-offend?

THE ANSWER IS YES.

2. Short of high security incarceration, do we have any tools that would prevent Paul Bernardo from re-offending?

THE ANSWER IS NO.

Monday back to involuntary committal and treatment Part 3

Yes, Involuntary Committal and Treatment Does Work

By Marvin Ross

There is an old saying in the field of mental illness treatment that our society allows people to die with their rights intact. If a person’s brain is so ill that they do not recognize they are ill and refuse treatment, we allow them to wander the streets in all temperatures, pan handle, live in cardboard boxes and revolve through jails for petty crimes. Many die years before they should.

We don’t do that with the elderly suffering from Alzheimer’s. We do whatever we can to make sure they live in secure settings where they are cared for. Alzheimer’s patients usually do not recognize they are ill, often refuse residential care, and like to wander the streets. We go to any length to get them help and into a secure living arrangement. Most of us would make every attempt possible to prevent someone from committing suicide if we came upon them planning to jump off a bridge. Most of us do not say they have the civil right to kill themselves. We try to prevent it and to get them help.

But we don’t do any of that with the young mentally ill. Many say that they have the right to be who they are. We must protect their civil rights from the interfering do-gooders and psychiatrists who want to treat them. If we are consistent, we should let the demented elderly and the potential suicides fare for themselves in the same way.

Voluntary treatment is always preferable. No one likes to be forced and I have no doubt that doctors do not like having to force someone but there are times when it is necessary for the benefit of the person and their families. And despite what those opposed often say, it does not mean solitary confinement and throwing away the key.

Involuntary patients have rights and those using that option have obligations they must comply with like time restraints, review mechanisms by an independent board while the patient (in Ontario at least) has the right to appeal and have a lawyer. Ontario has an independent psychiatric patient advocate to help.

Last week I mentioned Erin Hawkes (now Erin Hawkes-Emiru) who has written what the National Post headlined “Forced Medication Saved My Life”. Erin had been hospitalized and treated involuntarily over a dozen times until they found an anti-psychotic that helped her. She managed to complete her masters in neuroscience, works as a peer support specialist in Vancouver, has written two books which I’ve published – When Quietness Came: A Neuroscienctist’s Personal Journey with Schizophrenia and When Neurons Tell Stories A Layman’s Guide to the Nruroscience of Mental Illness and Health.

Erin was recognized with the “Courage to Come Back” award in 2019, is married and has a young daughter. She is often invited to give lectures to health professionals about mental illness in Vancouver. Not bad for someone dragged kicking and screaming to the hospital by police and paramedics!

The late Dr Carolyn Dobbins penned What a Life Can Be: One therapist’s Take on Schizo-Affective Disorder. She too was hospitalized involuntarily and, after one such bout, was discharged in time to defend her PhD thesis in Psychology at Vanderbilt. Carolyn spent over 12 years as a director of an addiction treatment facility in Branson, Mo and then had a private practice in Knoxville. Carolyn’s book is helping countless people and has been very favourably received in the media including a blog associated with the Washington Post.

Sandra Yuen MacKay is an accomplished artist living in Vancouver who was first hospitalized as a teen when her parents called for help. Of her first night as an involuntary detainee (patient), Sandra states “I fell asleep without tears for the first time in a long while. I felt protected from peering eyes that I had experienced previously.” Not quite the horrific experience that the anti-psychiatry folks would have you believe. Sandra’s book My Schizophrenic Life the Road to Recovery From Mental Illness was described as “remarkably compelling” and compared to Kay Redfield Jamison’s book on bipolar, An Unquiet Mind.

Sandra too has been awarded with the Courage to Come Back honour by Vancouver Coastal Health and was one of five chosen as a Face of Mental Illness in Canada. At one point, Sandra’s picture graced the posters on “recovery is possible” on the back of municipal buses in a city in BC. In 2012, she was awarded with the Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. So much for the negative effects of involuntary committal.

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Sakeenah Francis described her life as going from Homecoming queen to Homelessness because of schizophrenia. She was married with a young child but became homeless because of her illness and found herself turned away from a shelter so she climbed onto a freight train to escape. She was arrested. Turned out in court that she and the judge knew each other from college and so did the social worker who visited her in her cell.

Probably because of that connection, the social worker realized she was ill and had Sakeenah moved to a psychiatric hospital. In jail, she was so psychotic that she wound up getting into a fight with another women in for murder. That diversion to hospital saved her from a life in and out of jail. Sakeenah became well enough from her treatment to write a book about her experiences with her daughter. Sakeenah described events from her perspective while her daughter Anika described what it was like for her during those years. Sakeenah has been very active in the Cleveland chapter of NAMI and mother and daughter both addressed the 60th Annual Conference of the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in Orlando.

The final words go to Jude Mersereau who wrote What’s So Funny An Autobiography of a Professional Schizophrenian. Artist, Public Speaker and Singer. Jude has always gone into hospital voluntarily but once, when in, was declared incompetent and put on a hold. Her comment is that “there is so much to do in life, you should just take your meds and shut up”. When I’ve lost control, those around me must act on my behalf and have me hospitalized. That is the humanitarian thing to do, she told me.

The examples above are people who are exceptional and not always indicative of all people with schizophrenia. The disease (and yes it is a disease) impacts people differently. Some have worse cases than others but, regardless of the severity, involuntary committal when it is required can be helpful.

Details about these authors and their books can be found at https://bridgeross.com/

Next week, the tragedies when involuntary hospitalizations and treatments are not used when they should be.

The World Health Organization Joins the UN in Attacking the Mentally Ill

By Marvin Ross

On June 10, WHO held an international webinar to announce its new series of publications and initiative on community mental health services described as

“Promoting person-centred and rights-based approaches (is) a set of publications that provides information and support to all stakeholders who wish to develop or transform their mental health system and services to align with international human rights standards including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

This may sound innocuous but it is anything but. It is an initiative devoid of scientific basis that joins with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) that dictates that governments who sign must agree to eliminate involuntary hospitalization and treatment and the defence of not criminally responsible (Article 12). It carries with it the power and influence of two supposedly prestigious worldwide organizations that will likely derail any efforts to improve services for the mentally ill and particularly those whose illnesses prevents them from understanding that they are ill.

Of the CRPD, the British medical journal, the Lancet, wrote that:

“Article 12 of the CRPD threatens to undermine critical rights for persons with mental disabilities, including the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, access to justice, the right to liberty, and the right to life. Stigma and discrimination might also increase.” (Lancet Psychiatry Vol 2, Issue 9 Sept 1, 2015 Reversing Hard Won Victories in the name of Human Rights).

Removing not criminally responsible will mean that instead of people being sent to hospital for treatment if they committed an offence while incapable, the UN requires that they be sent to prison untreated. Back to the Dark Ages. As Lancet Psychiatry points out, these dictates are not consistent with best medical practices for these ailments and came about because of the total lack of clinical experience among those who framed these rules and their limited consultation with users.

As it turned out, many of the people involved with the UN are Mad in America advocates. I’ve actually written about all of this and carefully refuted most of what they claim about serious mental illness and psychiatry in my new book Anti-Psychiatry and the UN Assault on the Mentally Ill.

I did attend the webinar put on by WHO but lasted for less than an hour – long enough to get the link to all their publications and be depressed by what I heard. A friend from Families for Addiction Recovery e-mailed me that “I watched the whole thing in horror. Asked several questions that did not get answered”.

The moderator was Sir Norman Lamb, a UK politician, who announced that there is presently too much medical focus in mental health and not enough social causes. WHO, he said, is taking a rights approach rather than a medical approach. This, he said, will give people a chance to get well. Next up was Olga Runciman from Denmark. Dr Runciman is a psychologist who told the listeners (6700 on Zoom and others on yutube live) that she loves her voices.

She explained that she was diagnosed with schizophrenia that resulted from school bullying, sexual abuse from childhood, and an adult rape. The one time she was hospitalized, she felt as if she was being bullied, sexually abused and raped all over again by the psychiatrists and hospital staff. Dr Runciman is involved with the Hearing Voices organization, practices Open Dialogue and writes for Mad in America. None of that is evidence based.

At this point, I left the webinar and started looking at the documents they produced. Here is the link to them and you can download all their publications. What is evident in reviewing these documents is the lack of solid scientific evidence (in my opinion anyway) and people I recognize from Mad in America – some of whom I’ve argued with on social media. Notable is Open Dialogue pushed by Robert Whitaker from Mad in America for which there is almost no evidence of its benefit. I’ve written about them before and even the proponents who developed the program admit that more evidence is needed. Open Dialogue treats those with first episode psychosis where roughly 1/3 have only one episode anyway. In one of their studies, psychotropic medications were used in 29% of subjects.

Another big focus is the Soteria Project first developed by Loren Mosher in the 1970’s after he visited RD Laing. Soteria is “based on a concept of schizophrenia as an existential crisis to be resolved at a personal and interpersonal level. Disease models and antipsychotic medications were considered impediments to the creative resolution of a psychotic episode, although it was acknowledged that they were sometimes necessary for management.”

I didn’t cover Soteria in my book because I did not realize it was around much anymore but most of the modalities espoused by the WHO, I have refuted referencing solid scientific work. But I do think their are lessons we can learn from all this to devise better advocacy strategies to counter this unscientific silliness and work towards improvements in care for the mentally ill.

In my humble opinion, the problem is that despite all the advances in science, we are becoming increasingly anti-science. The proof of that is the huge growth in alternative medicine and the reactions we are seeing to Covid-19 lockdown strategies, masking and opposition to vaccinations. I’ve had people tell me that they will not get vaccinated and one person (with a university education) caledl me to see how I was after I got my first shot. He told me that the vaccinations are causing increases in Covid and increased deaths.

The arguments that I do not have to wear a mask because it is my civil right not to have to wear one is selfish and dangerous. According to Tim Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta, reliance upon civil liberties means lack of science knowledge. And the WHO and the UN focus on civil liberties to the exclusion of science. Caulfield is the host of a TV series seen in 60 countries called A User’s Guide to Cheating Death and the author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything and Relax Dammit!: A User’s Guide to the Age of Anxiety which looks at how misinformation and science affect daily decisions.

He made that comment in a zoom meeting he gave on misinformation in Covid that I attended. It is possible to successfully challenge these beliefs, he said, but not the way most of us do it. Citing scientific studies just causes people’s eyes to glaze over. The better method is using narrative because narrative is what the other side uses so successfully.

Narratives like those that Olga Runciman used at the webinar are tremendously emotive. Here she was a little girl bullied at school by her classmates, sexually abused by someone (she doesn’t say) and then raped later in life invokes compassion. She then develops hearing voices (by itself not a symptom of schizophrenia but evocative) and when she gets to a psych hospital, her experiences force her to relive all her earlier traumas. A personal anecdote with no proof of anything but it creates sympathy.

There is no reason we can’t use personal anecdotes like those to demonstrate our agenda. In fact, one of my authors did just that. Erin Hawkes, who wrote When Quietness Came A Neuroscientist’s Personal Journey with Schizophrenia, did do that.

Erin was so delusional that she had about 14 different hospitalizations involving police and/or paramedics dragging her into ambulances for transport to Hospital. When an anti-psychotic was finally found that quelled those delusions, she was able to get on with life and write that book, get married, have a child and write a second book that has just come out. Her article appeared in the National Post called Forced Medication Saved My Life. As I recall, she was viciously attacked for that on social media but her story did resonate with a lot of people.

Most of us can give good examples of the changes we’ve seen in our relatives when they start and stay on medication and that is far more compelling than quoting studies. Because people will likely be suspicious, we do need to back up those anecdotes with sound science which is not something the anti-psychiatry people can do. Without wishing to sound promotional, Anti-Psychiatry and the UN Assault on the Mentally Ill will do that for you. Amazon in the US has it on special at $12.92 Amazon Canada has it on for $8.60 with free Prime delivery the Indigo chain in Canada has it for $8.69 It is also available in e-books in various platforms.

We need to bear in mind and to make known to those who oppose involuntary committal and treatment that “The opposition to it betrays:

a “profound misunderstanding of the principle of civil liberties. Medication can free victims from their illness — free them from the Bastille of their psychosis — and restore their dignity, their free will and the meaningful exercise of their liberties.

This was said by civil libertarian Herschel Hardin in 1993 writing in the Vancouver Sun. The late DJ Jaffe considered this to be the best article written on the topic and he reprinted the entire article on his website. Hardin was a member of the Civil Liberties Association and of Amnesty International for many years.

The London Murders and the Hypocrisy of Politicians

By Marvin Ross

Whenever there is a tragedy, the hypocrisy of elected officials shines brightly. The tragic murder of the Muslim family in London, ON is no exception. The father was a physiotherapist and it was said of him that a white patient refused to allow him to treat him. The dork preferred a white person. The mother was completing a PhD in civil engineering. Both, the types of immigrants valued by this country.

But, all that aside, I’m referring to the political response. The House of Commons in Ottawa universally condemned the senseless murder. Yet, a few years ago when a member put forth an anti-Islamaphobia bill after the Mosque shooting in Quebec City, not one member of the Conservative Party or the Bloc Quebecois voted for it. Erin O’Toole, the current Conservative leader, spoke emotionally this week about the murders but he voted against condemning Islamaphobia then. And it was the Conservative Party of Canada, who a few years ago, came up with the idea of a barbaric cultural practices tip line so people could report if they thought their neighbours might be sacrificing a goat on the front lawn.

Trudeau does not get off either. While declaring that these murders were acts of terrorism, he refuses to take action against the Province of Quebec and its legislation (Bill 21) that bans citizens from wearing hijabs, yarmulkas, or other religious symbols when they work for the province as teachers, cops, whatever. This was legislation passed in a provincial legislature with all manner of Catholic symbolism.

Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Doug Ford travelled to the vigil in London, Ontario declaring that racism has no place in our province. That’s the same Doug Ford who had his picture taken with far right white supremacist, Faith Goldy. She had appeared in the Neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer from the Charlottetown demonstration and was thus kicked out of Rebel Media which, itself, is very right wing. Doug refused to distance himself from her and his explanation to the legislature was:

as a hushed legislature awaited his explanation, he lapsed into partisan rhetoric and personal boasting that left his own Progressive Conservative MPPs uncharacteristically subdued, averting their glances, sitting on their hands.”

In order to justify his bad handling of the pandemic, Ford has resorted to blaming international travellers coming into Canada for spreading Covid even though Ontario’s own statistics put spread from foreign travel as negligible. Still, he put out ads showing planes landing at Toronto from all over the world spreading infection. He also wants to ban all international students from coming to Ontario.

One of Ford’s first acts when he became premier was to scrap the post of minister responsible for anti-racism. After the George Floyd murder, he stated that Ontario does not have the same history of anti-Black racism as the US. As a result of the outcry, he walked that one back. He also went out of his way to try to help a private Christian college get degree granting status (but the application was tossed out by the civil servants in charge). The college is run by a friend and supporter who is notorious for his islamaphobic and homophobic rantings.

What we have is what our American friends put up with after every mass shooting, “our thoughts and prayers are with you”. Or, from my background, some of my best friends are Jews (but you can’t play golf at my club). But I was encouraged to see that both O’Toole and Ford were booed when they got up to speak. Progress is slow but, hopefully there is progress. And we really do need progress.

Graphic courtesy of @originalGoove on Twitter

Comment on the Murders of a Muslim Family in London, ON

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Some years ago Bill Maher lost his job because he disagreed with the terms all other pundits were using to describe the perpetrators of the 9-11 tragedy: “cowardly”, “cowards”, a “cowardly act”. These men were, as he pointed out, many things, but not “cowards”.

But it was then, as it is now, commonplace to label any perpetrators of heinous acts, “cowardly.” The word had/has become an all purpose pejorative. And when used to describe the perpetrators of mass killings it does imply that the worse thing in this culture a person can be is a “coward”. And this probably tells us more about our popular culture than it does about the killers.

Would that those men had been a bit more “cowardly” and called the whole thing off.

I’m thinking of this because of the killing of a family in London. The police were quick to identify this as a “hate” crime, an action motivated by “hate”. And this word in this context has become, like “cowardly”, an all-purpose singularly negative pejorative.

Now at some moment in the formulation of the “plan” to kill some people, whether that moment was fleeting. or simmering over weeks, the word “hate” likely and accurately describes the perpetrator’s emotional state, but it doesn’t help our understanding.

This young man, boy really, is 20 years old, had access to a Ford Pickup truck, and a name implying Dutch heritage. I know nothing else about him.

But while the emotion of hatred must have been present, the event and context indicate that this young man was and is delusional. Delusional, because at that moment, or in the weeks preceding that moment, it became in the mind of this young man, the right thing to do, whether to revenge imagined slights, or achieve something that would lead to……??

What we don’t know and should try to determine is if his delusion grew out of a singular (and treatable) mental illness such as schizophrenia, or was it the product of isolated indoctrination via some real or virtual social group.

And from this we will know what should have been put in place some weeks or months ago.

Housing First or Treatment First? The $64,000 Question.

Marvin Ross

Or, what comes first, the chicken or the egg. Homelessness is a growth industry over all of North America and is likely being made worse by Covid. Most of the homeless, however, are in that situation because they suffer from untreated mental illness, addiction or both. I really don’t think that anyone would dispute that but what almost everyone misses is that the solution lies in proper TREATMENT. And ongoing TREATMENT AND SUPPORT.

In Toronto recently, the police moved in on a homeless shelter near a soccer stadium to dismantle it and scatter the residents. This is happening in many cities in North America but what made this unique is that supporters came out to try to thwart the effort. Toronto Star columnist, Heather Mallik, reported that protesters came out, fought with police and got arrested trying to prevent the homeless from being moved.

She commented that:

“So why do social justice activists want the homeless to stay put? Because some homeless people say they do, even if they are unwell and hardly the best judge of their own welfare? Protesters, not as woke as they think they are, were arrested for trespassing and assaulting cops rather than doing something useful and taking people into their own home. I’m not sure what cause protesters ultimately serve although they are cement-based certain that it is admirable.”

Earlier, another Toronto Star columnist, Rosie Dimanno, spent a night in a homeless camp in another Toronto park and the experience scared her. As she said, the homeless are examples of the twin urban plagues of mental illness and housing shortages. Our solution tends to be to find shelters wherever they can be found like in underused motels and other such venues.

But without treatment to deal with the untreated mental illnesses and addictions, this will not work. A recent article in the Los Angeles News made that point very persuasively. Paul Webster, the founder of Hope Street Coalition points out that pouring money into the problem is a waste and is a poor substitute for treatment:

The use of terms like “supportive services” and providing housing for those with “mental health disabilities” and “addiction disabilities” make it seem that the needs of the mentally ill and addicted will be met. But the seriousness of chronic, life-long illness like substance use and schizophrenia and related brain disorders, defy being lumped in with economic hardship; they need a whole different approach focusing on housing combined with clinical treatment and intensive supportive services.”

My own knowledge of a supposed supported housing project in the city I live in is a perfect example. The organization which gets millions from governments to put up housing totally fails when it comes to supports. The buildings I’ve seen are beautiful but nothing is done for the tenants other than to say that for those with substance abuse its philosophy is harm reduction.

From my view through a resident, the harm reduction consists of lectures on safe drug use and passing out naloxone kits. Shortly after the building opened, a tenant was murdered and there have been assaults and one rape that I am familiar with. Overdoses are common, frequent and there have been numerous deaths. And while there is no one definition of harm reduction, it:

“encompasses a range of health and social services and practices that apply to illicit and licit drugs. These include, but are not limited to, drug consumption rooms, needle and syringe programmes, non-abstinence-based housing and employment initiatives, drug checking, overdose prevention and reversal, psychosocial support, and the provision of information on safer drug use. Approaches such as these are cost-effective, evidence-based and have a positive impact on individual and community health.”

A recent article in Psychiatric Times points out that Canada has implemented three very novel and successful harm reduction strategies involving providing safe pharmaceutical grade heroin, pharmaceutical grade injectable hydromorphone and supervised consumption facilities.

Had this agency supported these strategies, a number of lives would have been saved.

But then, the other problem is that the building houses those with a drug problem and those without but with serious mental illnesses. The mentally ill without drug use are left to fend for themselves in an environment that, at times, is violent and where there is considerable illegal activities needed to support illicit drug habits.

What is happening today is an enormous regression from how supported housing worked, in this city at least, a number of years ago. Hospitalized mentally ill were kept in hospital long enough to be fully stabilized. Today, they are discharged far too early because of the lack of beds. Before, when discharged, their transition to housing involved a specialized team of nurses, social workers and rehab specialists to ensure adequate support when life skills were deficient and continuity of treatment.

No model currently exists for those living in the community or who are homeless and probably not being adequately treated. For them to be successful in housing, they need proper supports and continued treatment. The addicted tend to be manipulative, criminal and potentially dangerous in order to support their drug habits. Putting the two together is a recipe for disaster and no one wins.

Money spent on the program is wasted when it does not have to be that way. I should also add that my latest information is that marked and unmarked cruisers sit for hours watching the building. Another wasted use of resources and expense.