Children’s mental health boosted with VIHA service expansion

More needs to be done, says Victoria family who created petition

Kelly and Owen Bradley

The Vancouver Island Health Authority is in the final stages of creating a 24-7 on-call acute care psychiatry team at Victoria General Hospital, thanks in part to a Victoria family’s petition that has garnered more than 27,000 signatures.

In a story first told by the News, Kelly and Owen Bradley publicly aired their frustration towards VIHA for refusing to admit their 11-year-old daughter, who suffers from bipolar distorder, to Victoria General Hospital in January.

After a 19-day wait, their daughter was finally admitted to Ledger House in Saanich, the Island’s only child and adolescent mental health facility with 13 beds.

“We do recognize the need to enhance and expand our services in this area,” said Dr. Richard Crowe, VIHA’s executive medical director of mental health and addiction services.

Crowe said he’s seen roughly 20 per cent more youth and children presenting at local hospitals for mental health services compared to a few years ago.

VIHA plans to spend an additional $900,000 on child and adolescent psychiatrists this year, including two new full-time positions for Greater Victoria.

VGH has also extended weekend hours of its mental health crisis nurses, while its collaborative psychiatry team will include both child/adolescent and adult psychiatrists to provide full coverage, Crowe said.

There are currently seven VIHA-employed psychiatrists in the Victoria area, but most are part-time and do not specialize in acute care, he added.

“This is the case for all of the health care authorities across Canada – there are simply not enough child psychiatrists,” Crowe said.

Kelly Bradley admitted the long-term solutions aren’t easy, but said acute care is just a piece of the puzzle.

She plans to deliver her family’s petition to B.C. Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid in the coming weeks.

“We’re just so grateful this is coming out,” Bradley said. “Some people will deny there’s a problem. But so many people have experienced almost everything we have.”

To view the Bradley’s petition, visit chn.ge/11lGrFJ.

dpalmer@vicnews.com