For nearly 100 years, the Riverview Lands were the centre of mental health and substance use treatment. Today, the Kwikwetlem First Nation and BC Housing are working in partnership to envision the future for səmiq̓wəʔelə, formerly known as Riverview, which means “Place of the Great Blue Heron” in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, the traditional language spoken along the lower Fraser River.
On June 23, the Kwikwetlem First Nation and BC Housing hosted a joint event called “Let’s Talk: Wellness,” which brought together a range of stakeholders, including local government, city planners, non-profit organizations and others. Together, they discussed how to best “embrace the community as a resource to support wellness and set a new standard for mental health integration.”
Among the presenters at the event were Lynn Pelletier, the VP of BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, Kathryn Embacher, the senior director of patient care services, as well as and Kathryn Proudfoot and Katie Mai, director and leader respectively, from the Patient Experience and Community Engagement team.
"That we can get together like this to discuss new strategies and opportunities for səmiq̓wəʔelə is truly a sign of hope."
The team spoke about the prevalence and human and economic burden of mental health and addiction issues within B.C. and across Canada, and discussed the evolution of mental health and substance use treatment—from the historic days of Riverview Psychiatric Hospital to modern day in-patient, outpatient, and community-based service delivery.
Pelletier, Embacher, Proudfoot and Mai also presented on potential opportunities and partnerships to support people with mental health and substance use challenges, which they outlined as follows:
- Implement trauma-informed and evidence-informed practices, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (often called CBT) and community-based rapid response teams
- Address gaps for youth and young adults, seniors and people with brain injury and mental health and substance use
- Expand treatment, virtual health and specialist consultation services at the new Red Fish Healing Centre for Mental Health and Addiction for those with complex challenges
- Work in partnership with Indigenous communities to improve services, housing and supports
- Support the mental health and wellness needs of diverse groups, including LGBTQ2S+, immigrants, refugees, ethnocultural and racialized people
- Address stigma, inequities and the social determinants of health
- Generate and share new knowledge through increased research and knowledge exchange
- Engage and learn from people with lived experience
- Provide leadership and innovation in prevention, treatment and recovery through proof-of-concept models, and commit to evaluating and refining programs, where necessary
- Enable healthy communities through the built environment
- Extend services through virtual and digital health, such as apps, virtual reality, and wearable technology
- Challenge the “status quo”—take calculated risks, welcome fresh ideas and be willing to fail
“That we can get together like this to discuss new strategies and opportunities for səmiq̓wəʔelə is truly a sign of hope. We carry with us a sense of optimism that the site will bring positive change to the thousands of residents who call it home today,” says Proudfoot.
Creating an “integrated community of mental health excellence” is one of the five guiding principles in the səmiq̓ʷəʔelə redevelopment plan. The site is already home to həy̓χʷət kʷθə šxʷhəliʔ leləm (Healing Spirit House), a 38-bed facility that provides mental health and substance treatment for young people aged 12-17, including a range of recreational, academic and outreach programming.
"As we envision a complete, healthy community for this site, where health, social and cultural services are all integrated, it has potential to touch many lives."
This October, θəqiʔ ɫəwʔənəq leləm’ (Red Fish Healing Centre for Mental Health and Addiction) will add an additional 105 beds to support people struggling with complex and severe mental illness and addiction. Clients will also have access to spiritual programs and activities, including an outdoor space with gardens, trees and other natural features that support healing and recovery.
In-progress therapeutic garden outside the new Red Fish Healing Centre.
In addition to more mental health services, the site could also see a mix of safe and affordable housing, community gardens, cultural spaces, art centres and other amenities that will help those struggling with mental health and substance use reintegrate into the community.
“We know that communities with access to a range of services provide for better individual health,” says Pelletier. “As we envision a complete, healthy community for this site, where health, social and cultural services are all integrated, it has potential to touch many lives. We are grateful for the leadership of the Kwikwetlem First Nation and BC Housing, and look forward to sharing what we learn through this innovative project.”