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Letter: Red Fish officials respond to Coquitlam RCMP claims about 'missing' patients

Red Fish Healing Centre, located on the Riverview Lands in Coquitlam, is a designated treatment facility for mental health and addiction under the Mental Health Act, the letter writers state.
A mural at the entrance to the Red Fish Healing Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, in Coquitlam.

The Editor:

Re: 40% uptick in mental health calls in Coquitlam this spring: RCMP (Oct. 26, 2022)

In an article published Oct. 26, it is stated that RCMP are called multiple times each day to find missing clients of the Red Fish Healing Centre for Mental Health and Addiction.

The article says five to six clients go AWOL from the centre each day. This is not the case.

For background, the Red Fish Healing Centre is a 105-bed facility in Coquitlam for people with severe mental health and substance use issues.

An important point is that clients are not at Red Fish due to criminal behavior. Instead, they are there to receive help for their complex issues. They come from all walks of life and regions of the province. Clients receive assessment and treatments for a period of up to nine months to improve their quality of life and prognosis upon discharge. Our program is highly successful.

A key part of the recovery and rehabilitation process is for clients to receive passes, at the discretion of their psychiatrist, to leave the site and go into the community. The use of passes is the standard of practice in inpatient psychiatric care in Canada.

It allows clients to do everything from participating in outdoor recreation, to taking up activities of daily life such as setting up bank accounts or seeking long-term housing.

The vast majority return safely and on time, but some do not. Across Canada, it is common for clients on passes to suffer a relapse or decide they no longer want to be in treatment.

We work hard to retain clients and welcome them back after an AWOL, even if they have taken substances while on a pass, or if they struggle with motivation.

On average, we have one certified client go AWOL every one to two days. The majority occur when a client has a physician-ordered pass but does not return on time.

Typically, clients who go AWOL return to treatment within three days, often on their own. Other times they are located by VPD, RCMP or other police agencies and returned, for their own safety, back to our care.

Red Fish Healing Centre is a designated treatment facility for mental health and addiction under the Mental Health Act. 

The autonomy of our clients should be respected as per medical assessments.

We will continue to balance their autonomy with restrictions as appropriate under the Act. 

- Dr. Vijay Seethapathy, Chief Medical Officer, BCMHSUS, and Jennifer Duff, Chief Operating Officer, BCMHSUS

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