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Updated: Premier commits to campus of care at Riverview

Coquitlam's Riverview grounds will be the site of a new centre for people with severe addiction and mental health challenges - Premier John Horgan said Friday it's the first step to better utilizing Riverview as a facility for health and wellness

Construction of the $101-million Centre for Mental Health and Addictions at Riverview is the first step on the road to creating a campus of care at the former provincial hospital site and providing more services for British Columbians, Premier John Horgan said Friday.

Horgan was in Coquitlam along with Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson, the minister of municipal affairs and housing, and Judy Darcy, minister of mental health and addictions, to assist at a groundbreaking for the 105-bed facility that will replace a 60-year old building in Burnaby.

Slated for completion in late 2019, the centre will feature individual rooms, common areas with high ceilings, large windows to let in natural light, private areas for families, artwork by First Nationals artists and views of the Riverview lands.

It was announced almost two years ago by the previous BC Liberal government and was recently given development approval by the city of Coquitlam.

Horgan said an effort to “scale up” the building to add more beds would have delayed construction. (Only 11 new beds have been added to the project)

“It was our view collectively that we should proceed with this facility then build on that here at this site as well as across the province,” Horgan said.

Robinson and Horgan also re-confirmed their election commitment to keep Riverview in the public domain as a facility for health and wellness, including protection of the arboretum. But keeping some of the older buildings for services is not guaranteed, Horgan said, because of asbestos and other contaminants.

“We want to make sure we’re building purpose built — that’s the patient care component that I believe overrides the notion of maintaining historic buildings,” Horgan said.

Several members of the Kwikwetlem First Nation led off the event with a song and a prayer.

Andrea Aleck, chief officer of special projects, said it’s important to include the Kwikwetlem as the government works toward reconciliation and pointed out that construction of the project had to be stopped at one point because proper archeological measures weren’t taken.

In June, a 30-day-cooling off period was implemented for contractor Ellis Don Construction and Building Services while the archeological oversight issues were dealt with said a spokesperson with the Provincial Health Services Authority.

In 2016, the Kwikwetlem filed an aboriginal title claim for territory that includes Riverview.