Backwards From Back-wards: The Unmet Needs of Recovering Psychiatric Patients in Edmonton

Year Published:  1984
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX3005

Reacting to an enormous increase in ex-psychiatric paitents among its clients, Boyle Street Co-op, an Edmonton street-front agency, conducted research into Alberta's mental health care services and the situaiton of the "deinstitutionalized." This report is a shortened, "popular" version of the original study written for social services professionals and the government. It presents findings and makes recommendations to the province. Housing emerges as an area of acute need.

After the Blair Report (1969) deinstitutionalization - transferring psychiatric patients from hospitals to the community - has been the official policy in Alberta, as it is in most of Canada. But the ex-hospitalized have minimal financial means and lack personal or material support. Extreme transience is the norm in housing. The average length of stay in any form of accommation is less than four months. Many ex-patients are evicted, more in search of better rooms or re-enter hospital. Without social support they are easy targets for exploitations. Even supportive housing situations are sometimes not available, the report suggests, because of administrative unease about ex-psychiatric patients.

Government should initiate new housing programs open to less motivated chronic patients inappropriate for day-programs, the report urges. But most critical is attention to the overall problems of the deinstitutinalization; the lack of funding for the community support services prescribed by Blair and lack of co-ordination among mental health care agencies. Only through provision of integrated community social support, it argues, could the policy become the positive alternative it was once thought to be.

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