Keep Riverview as mental health site, open house respondents say

BC Housing receives a consistent message from respondents at its second round of open houses in May: keep the 244 acres for mental health care. - tri-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO
BC Housing receives a consistent message from respondents at its second round of open houses in May: keep the 244 acres for mental health care.
— image credit: tri-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

The message is loud and clear: the future of Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam must reflect its past as a mental health care hub.

This week, BC Housing unveiled its results from the second set of open houses held in May, which are part of the agency's year-long visioning exercise on what can be done with the 102-year-old site.

And its results match the findings from the first set of open houses held earlier this year that show most respondents want to keep the grounds as a health and wellness centre. They also want to preserve the green spaces on the 244 acres.

"There is overwhelming support for a mental health facility," said Coquitlam Coun. Craig Hodge, chairperson of the city's Riverview Lands Advisory Committee. "I hope that's being heard by the provincial government."

Hodge said his committee — made up of local environmental experts and land stewards — has been pleased with the BC Housing process to date, noting the organization tasked to officially take over Riverview next year has been "open and transparent" as promised and has worked with stakeholders to gauge feedback.

According to the "Creating Goals" summary report that came out on Monday, the Mental Illness Family Support Centre Society and Metro Vancouver (which owns Colony Farm regional park to the south of Riverview) has added their views to the redevelopment.

The society is calling for programs for SAMIs — Severely Addicted Mentally Ill people — at Riverview to alleviate demand at Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction. It also wants to see an acute care hospital at Riverview, an education and training centre, a health and wellness business park, and dedicated park space.

The society's report is similar to the city's submission to BC Housing. In June, the city — which controls the land use at Riverview — put forward its request to build an acute care hospital and centre for excellence to treat people with severe mental illness. The city report was based on the findings by Dr. John Higenbottam, a former Riverview vice president.

Metro Vancouver has also asked for more community partnerships, and conservation and ecological connectivity between Riverview and Colony Farm.

Formal reports were also submitted to BC Housing by the Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group and the Riverview Horticultural Centre Society.

Besides mental health care and green spaces, the other priorities for Riverview as noted by the open house attendees are:

• a teaching hospital;

• a museum;

• an education facility;

• social housing;

• amenities and services that support mental wellness;

• and trails and bike paths.

Dates for the third set of open houses are expected to be out next month.



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