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New Langley team to aid people at high risk of homelessness

The new ACT will work with people with complex mental health and addiction isssues
Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, announced a new team that will support 25 people in Langley who are at risk of homelessness because of complex mental health needs. The team is expected to be up and running as soon as this summer. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

A new community-based treatment team for people suffering from complex mental health and drug addiction issues in Langley is expected to start helping 25 people as early as this summer.

“This new system of care connects people to the supports they need right in their homes,” said Sheila Malcomson, B.C.’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

Malcolmson came to Langley Tuesday, April 12 to announce the creation of new local Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team in Langley, that will provide support for what is often known as complex care.

People requiring complex care have a mixture of mental health issues, drug addiction, trauma, and sometimes acquired brain injuries.

They are at high risk of homelessness because they can be disruptive in normal settings and may require interventions, help with medication, psychiatric aid, and other supports, sometimes 24/7.

The ACT team is aimed at providing those, Malcolmson said, describing it as “wraparound supports,” for when supportive housing is not enough.

The project won’t be creating a new housing location for the 25 locals who will be getting help.

Instead, they’ll be getting more services coming to them, whether in market rental housing or in existing supportive housing already in Langley.

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However, Malcolmson emphasized that they consider this a “housing first” project.

In some cases, that will mean finding housing for people who are currently homeless, while in others, it will mean stabilizing the situation of people who are on the verge of eviction due to their mental health and addiction issues.

“We will soon be recruiting for our new team,” said Meryl McDowell, executive director of mental health and substance abuse services with Fraser Health.

This is a new model of care for B.C., and Malcolmson pointed to the closure of the old Riverview Hospital and how provincial governments then did not follow up with community care. Riverview had institutionalized people, often against their will. She noted that the new programs will be voluntary.

“Every person in British Columbia deserves a home,” she said.

In addition to the Langley ACT team, a new Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) team will also be created and hopes to start taking on clients by the end of the year.

This time is similar to an ACT team, but also works closely with law enforcement officers and the justice system, as it is intended for people whose mental health and addiction issues means they have frequent run ins with the law, or are repeatedly taken to hospital by police officers.

“The multi-disciplinary team will work to improve the health of our clients, to divert them away from the criminal justice system and reduce recurring hospitalizations, and to provide enhanced services in their home communities,” said Dr. Vijay Seethapathy, chief medical health officer for BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services.

In total, the two new teams will work with 50 patients.

“This is going to make a significant difference in people’s lives here,” noted Langley MLA Andrew Mercier, who attended the announcement.

“Adding complex-care housing and the new ACT team to our community will be critical to connecting people with the right services so we can help establish stability, connection and break the cycle of homelessness,” said Langley East MLA Megan Dykeman.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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