Day pass not a free pass for psych patients

How could patients be given a day pass from the psychiatric hospital in Coquitlam if they are a risk to the public?

It has been nearly 36 hours since Coquitlam RCMP began looking for a man from the Coquitlam Forensic Psychiatric Hospital after he failed to return while on a day pass. 

Adam Yvan Gorges’s disappearance is the second case in three months where a patient from the Colony Farm facility has not returned from a day pass. That fact, along with the warning from the RCMP that these patients could be a danger to the public, begs the question: How could a patient be both potentially dangerous and be offered a day in the community? 

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The numbers are telling. According to a spokesperson for the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, of the 2,221 visits and day leaves given to patients in 2018, only five failed to return, with four of those coming back within 24 hours and one returning two days later. 

As the only psychiatric hospital of its kind in the province, the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital treats patients from across B.C. It has a mandate from the Supreme Court of British Columbia to ensure those patients get treatment for their mental illness and are reintegrated into the community in a way that does not jeopardize public safety.   

“People don’t get blanket day passes — sometimes it’s only for a few minutes,” said George Wiehahn, the medical director for forensic psychiatric services at the hospital.

Deciding when a patient gets a day pass is the culmination of a battery of assessments and may come many months or many years after someone first arrives at the hospital, according to Wiehahn. 

Day passes are tailored to each patient and where they are at in their treatment. They can start with as little as a supervised 15-minute cup of coffee and end with full on visits to family, grocery shopping and skills training to get them ready for reintegration into the community. 

Gorges — just like every other patient that gets a day pass without an escort — was assessed to be a low-risk to public safety, though, as one spokesperson for the hospital put it to The Tri-City News, low-risk does not mean no risk and assessments can change from one day to the next.

Adam Yvan Gorges was reported missing Thursday night, June 27
Adam Yvan Gorges was reported missing Thursday night, June 27 - RCMP

When a patient doesn’t return on schedule from a day pass, Wiehahn says the staff at the hospital immediately relay everything they know about the person to the RCMP, and it’s up to the detachment to decide what to do with that information. 

The police say they err on the side of caution, and so put out a warning that an overdue patient overdue could well be a danger to the themselves and the public, regardless of the latest assessment.

But according Gorges’s sister, Frances Gorges, her brother is approachable and not a danger to the public.

“All we ask is if people see him to tell him his family loves him, and to head back to the hospital,” Frances Gorges wrote to The Tri-City News in an email, adding that her brother recently was allowed to move independently through the Colony Farm facility. 

She believes that transition frightened him and that he’s overwhelmed by the change. 

“He has been doing tremendous with his recovery. We are human and all make mistakes,” she said. 

Adam Yvan Gorges was reported missing Thursday, June 27, at 9:55 p.m. and is considered unlawfully at large. 

Police describe Gorges as a 29-year-old Caucasian male, with blonde hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. He is 5’9” tall, weighs 180 lbs and was last seen wearing a rust coloured hoodie.

Anyone who sees him should call 911 immediately.

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