I want to bring to your attention the story that appeared in the April 27 issue of the Georgia Straight regarding the Downtown Eastside Mental Health & Substance Use (MHSU) Drop-in Centre. As part of the DTES Second Generation Strategy, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is making changes to the way some contracts and services are delivered to people in that community. It is a challenging situation but one we are trying to do in an open and accountable manner. Unfortunately, the April 27 story contained a number of pieces that were not only inaccurate, but have undermined our efforts to work with the community and providers on the changes underway.
For example, the story said VCH “eliminated funding for the Drug User Resource Centre”. That is totally wrong. Funding has not been cut and the money used for the centre continues to be used – in its entirety – for drop-in services provided under contract with a new service provider, Lookout Society.
The story also said: “By cutting the (centre’s) funding, VCH will save $634,000 a year.” Again, wrong. VCH is actually increasing funding in the DTES and adding programs. We are also expanding access by extending clinic and drop-in hours to seven days a week, and even opening another drop-in service as part of a low threshold addictions service.
One of those interviewed for the story suggested nighttime shelter options for women “will also be cut”. Again, this is not true. VCH has no plans to close the women’s shelter, nor are there are plans to reduce shelter services in the DTES. This shelter is operated by the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and funded by BC Housing, and the relocation of the DTES Mental Health and Substance Use Drop-in Centre will not impact shelter operations. VCH is actually discussing options with BC Housing and the City of Vancouver on ways to enhance services for women in the DTES.
It was disappointing to see such inaccuracies presented as facts. Through the DTES Second Generation Strategy, VCH and its partners are working hard to improve access and services for DTES residents. We plan to open a new low threshold addictions service this fall that will provide walk-in services, including a drop-in, for people with untreated addictions. We will also see outreach and clinic-based Mental Health and Substance Use services available seven days a week, 365 days a year. Again, just examples that we are not cutting or reducing services in the DTES as the story suggests.
We appreciate the interest by the Georgia Straight on what is happening in the DTES and truly believe organizations such as VCH should be held accountable by the media and other for the decisions they make. However, it is a concern when the focus appears to be more about positioning than accuracy.
Clay Adams, ABC, APR
Communications & Public Affairs
Vancouver Coastal Health