The decision to close Laurel House by October is, simply, bizarre.
Victoria’s last remaining drop-in, education and training centre for people diagnosed with mental illnesses is a rare success story (see June’s Focus) in a beleaguered system. While the Eric Martin psychiatric hospital and Archie Courtnall Centre endure psychiatrist resignations, and while police-backed psychiatric emergency responders are greeted with fear as often as gratefulness, Laurel House’s voluntary options for leisure, peer networking, skills development, and just being oneself in a therapeutic atmosphere stand out as popular amongst both front-line workers and consumers alike. There’s no better evidence of this than the support emerging in city media coverage and letters to the editor.
Kathleen Sumilas voices the sentiments of many clients when she says, “Laurel House saved my life.”
So why have the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the funders, and the Capital Mental Health Association, the independent organization running Laurel House, recently blindsided everyone with this announcement? Yes, new programs will run from CMHA’s offices and around the city. However, everyone recognizes our lack of community supports for people diagnosed with mental illnesses has contributed dramatically to other problems like suicides, homelessness and emergency room line-ups, so why axe our most successful program?!
The answers have been dubious. Continue reading