The number of “licensed care” beds for people with mental illnesses is shrinking in the Abbotsford area, and patients’ families are concerned.
Mountain View Home, a 25-bed licensed care facility on Abbotsford’s eastern city limit, was given notice in August to close in one year. This follows the closure of Sunrise on West Railway, a 30-bed licensed care home, in 2012. They’ll be replaced by 30 licensed care beds, 20 mental health assisted-living beds, and 18 subsidies for independent living with outpatient support.
Licensed care includes around-the-clock nursing support, medication administration and meal service, according to group that will operate the new beds. Assisted living includes one provided meal a day, and less staff support but more independence.
“This model works for some people, but not for the type of residents we are currently caring for,” said Patrick Newby, a registered nurse and director of care for Mountain View Home.
“The average stay here is 10 years. People have lived here for a long time. They feel safe, they feel comfortable, they don’t want to leave or be displaced.”
Tove Olsen, the mother of a Mountain View resident, says her son’s severe schizophrenia would make living with a lower level of care impossible. She says the quiet rural location of Mountain View and the friendly townsfolk nearby have made her son’s life calmer and happier.
“They’re talking about assisted living, but they get next to no care with assisted living. And supported independent living – they get nothing with that,” Olsen said. While her son has been promised a new licensed care bed after Mountain View closes, she’s concerned about the residents who don’t have family to advocate for them.
The new licensed care and assisted living beds will be in a facility currently under construction on Marshall Road, near Abbotsford Regional Hospital.
Fraser Health says this move as an expansion of mental health care, with a release noting there will be a net increase of mental health care beds or housing subsidies. However, Newby and patients’ families are worried the assisted-living and independent housing subsidies won’t be enough to help Mountain View residents, many of whom have serious long-term mental and physical health issues.
A letter prepared by Andy Libbiter, Fraser Health’s executive director of mental health and substance use, says, “We are not only providing more capacity, we are also providing care that is better suited to our clients,” the letter reads. “We have heard from some of our clients that they want to live more independently in the community as they recover from their illness.”
An online petition opposing the closure of Mountain View Home, created by Newby, has collected 1,276 signatures as of press time. Newby says the facility mainly houses people with “severe, persistent” mental and physical illnesses.
Fraser Health has scheduled a meeting with the families of Mountain View residents on Sept. 30.