B.C. Liberals fail to take action on unregulated recovery homes

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SURREY – The B.C. Liberal government must act now to reverse their damaging decision to deregulate recovery homes, say New Democrats.

“The B.C. Liberals threw the recovery home system into chaos when they deregulated them in 2002, and since then they have failed to fix the problems they created,” said New Democrat critic for mental health and addictions Sue Hammell.

“While they said in 2006, and again in 2009, and again in 2011, that they were working on a certification process, still these homes operate without regulation. And still, unscrupulous operators are taking advantage of a weak system,” said Hammell, MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers.

Hammell joined MLAs Bruce Ralston (Surrey-Whalley) and Harry Bains (Surrey-Newton) in calling on the B.C. Liberal government to immediately fix seven years of broken promises by appropriately regulating recovery homes.

Regulating recovery homes is one part of the Surrey Accord proposed by the MLAs. The accord would see all three levels of government work together on measures including investing in community policing and community courts, regulating recovery homes, committing to a mental health strategy, and creating more accessible social housing.

“Operators believe there are more than 150 unregulated recovery homes in our city, and many more around the province” said Ralston. “While many recovery homes are run well, some operators wreak havoc on their communities and terrorize their residents, offering nothing to help them reintegrate into the community, and maintaining crowded and unhygienic living conditions.”

Bains also reiterated the need for a community court in Surrey that would apply a problem-solving approach to crime that is responsive to dealing with the underlying causes of criminal behaviour within the community.

“The community court has been talked about for years, and it’s time for action,” said Bains. “We know it has been working in Vancouver, and we heard this week that the police chief in Delta is advocating a community-based approach too. Chief Cessford has also pointed out it costs less than half as much to manage chronic offenders in the community rather than with longer and more jail sentences.”

The MLAs are hosting a discussion about their proposal and the future of health and safety in Surrey at the Surrey Arts Centre Studio Theatre on Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but participants are asked to pre-register for the event at www.surreyaccord.ca.


Unregulated Recovery Homes Chronology

2002: The B.C. Liberal government deregulated supportive recovery homes, eliminating any minimum standards of care. Previously, recovery homes were licensed the same way as care homes for seniors, which continue to be regulated.
2006: After complaints from local governments and increased media coverage about unregulated recovery homes, the Ministry of Health announced a task force to review the issue and promised to take action. However, no report stemming from this review was ever tabled and no action was taken.
Government promised to: “develop a registration process for recovery houses…[to] ensure that supportive recovery homes meet basic health and safety standards, and that a complaints-based regulatory model is available to residents.” (B.C. Government response to UBCM resolution on recovery homes)
2009: Three years after their broken promise of 2006, the B.C. Liberals promised again – right before the provincial election – to take action on recovery homes and bring in a new registration process.
In March, Health Minister George Abbot promised this regulation within “several months” (CBC) and said “we will have appropriate regulation, and we’ll do it in a way that makes sense for profits and non-profits in this province” (Hansard).
2011: Despite continued promises, in June of 2011 the Assisted Living Registrar emailed colleagues in the Ministry of Health that the process is again delayed: “At the moment, the [recovery home] registration project is on hold and, in light of ___ [severed section 22] and other factors, I am unsure when and whether we will move forward.” (Documents obtained through FOI).
But the B.C. Liberals kept promising action. Health Minister Mike De Jong said that: “there is work taking place… I’m hopeful that that work will be completed early in the New Year” (Hansard).
2012: In estimates debate on March 13, 2012, Social Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux was asked by New Democrat MLA Bill Routley about the supportive recovery homes registration process and said that: “work is ongoing.”
2013: 11 years after deregulating recovery homes, the B.C. Liberals bring in a weakened system for registering recovery homes. Local government and advocates agree that the Liberals’ registration system is inadequate and that regulation of all recovery homes is necessary.