Mental Health Plans
would the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCH) refuse
to release documents that it references in its "service
almost six months of pursuing a freedom
of information request originally made to VCH in July,
I was told that all but three of seven documents I requested
were "draft" and hence exempt from disclosure
due to Sections 13 and 17 of the Freedom of Information
and Protection of Privacy Act. That ruling is now under
appeal to the Freedom of Information and Privacy Commissioner.
Using those Sections of the Act, the agency's argument
may be, and we have yet to see any detailed submission from
VCH, that the draft contains advice or recommendations developed
by or for a public body or a minister or that disclosure
of the information could harm the financial or economic
interests of the public body or the government.
of Information Commissioners have ruled
on the use of Section 13 and 17. Commissioner David
Loukidelis ruled on October 12, 1999, in a case
involving UBC, that some parts of some records could
not be disclosed but that the public body under Section
4(2) of the Act has a duty to sever records. He stated:
"This section requires public bodies to review each
record in detail - essentially line by line - and to decide
which parts "can reasonably be severed" and withheld.
This allows the remainder of the record to be disclosed
as required by s. 4(2)."
issue of funding for mental health has been immersed in
controversy while little information is available to test
the political rhetoric. One of the first cuts made by the
Campbell government was to eliminate the office of Mental
Health Advocate. The fiscal year ended March 31, 2002, was
the last year the budget for adult mental health services
was identified as a separate item in documents (called estimates)
from the Ministry of Finance; since then it is part of the
$7.2 billion given to the health authorities. The government
continues to make claims about mental health services even
though the claims are incapable of being confirmed.
can download VCH's "Health
Service Redesign Plan 2005/06" from their website.
Pages 18 through 28 of the Redesign Plan deal with mental
health and addictions services. My request for information
is simply for those health authority documents that are
referenced by that publicly available plan. For example,
on page 19 of the Redesign Plan it states:
are 1,233 persons with a mental illness in immediate need
of mental health housing and an additional 2,700 needing
addictions housing in VCH. To meet the most immediate needs
of these two clients groups, 1,568 new housing units are
proposed - 901 for mental health and 667 for addictions.
This represents 40% of estimated current need. 260 of these
units will be implemented in 2005/06 that addresses 6.6%
of identified demand."
to deal with "40% of estimated current need" the
Redesign Plan set "key milestones and duties"
which include providing 260 mental health and addiction
housing units in fiscal 2005/06 and a further 901 mental
health housing units and 667 addictions housing units between
2005/06 and 2008/09. (Who knows whether the unmet need will
remain at "only 60%" by 2008/09.)
Redesign Plan sets out "key performance indicators
and targets" for the mental health and addiction housing
objectives. When it comes to the "trend analysis"
section of the evaluation method, the Redesign Report states:
"Refer to the VCH MH&A Housing Plan Business Case
(last revised January 21, 2005)." I simply requested
a copy of that business case as part of my freedom of information
request, but VCH appears to believe that it is a deep secret
the release of which is prohibited by the Act. Given the
crisis of homelessness seen on the streets of Vancouver,
release of the secret document would appear to be a matter
of public interest, particularly since the Redesign Plan
admits that it will only meet 40% of the current need by
documents included in my freedom of information request
that have been refused by VCH also pertain to references
in the trends part of the evaluation method sections of
VCH's mental health service redesign plan. It is truly amazing
that an open and transparent government would prevent the
public from examining how it intends to evaluate its plans
by refusing access to key documents. Can every word in those
documents be secret? Is it impossible to sever those documents?
What are they hiding?