Petition gets MLA support to review psychiatric emergency services on Vancouver Island
VICTORIA -- Glen Fawkes, 61, of Campbell River, was an accomplished helicopter pilot, business owner, loving husband and father. Now he is the face of a petition calling for an independent review of psychiatric emergency services on Vancouver Island.
“Late winter, early spring of 2020 there were a lot of stressors,” says Lisa Fawkes, Glen’s widow.
Lisa got sick, a tree had fallen on the family home and COVID-19 happened. That caused Glen to experience insomnia and anxiety. That turned into paranoia, psychosis and delusions.
“Neither he or I had any experience with the mental health-care system and we quickly found that it was very difficult to navigate,” says Lisa.
Glen was admitted to the emergency room in Campbell River four times.
“He was having suicidal ideations,” says Lisa.
Last September, Glen went to stay with his sister and visit his son in Victoria.
“He was asking to go to the hospital,” says Kyle Fawkes, Glen’s son.
They took him to psychiatric emergency services (PES) at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. According to his son, Glen was confused and didn’t know where he was.
“They gave us an intake form to fill out, which had a number of questions on it about my dad’s background, his mental health, etc.,” says Kyle.
They filled out the form and had to leave Glen by himself at PES due to COVID-19. He was held for 36 hours and then released.
“We were in despair at that point once he was released,” says Lisa.
Lisa took Glen home to Campbell River. Nineteen days later, Glen took his own life.
“We know at least two people that have completed suicide since March,” says Ella Hale, a Vancouver Island mental health advocate.
In March, Ella and Emma created a Facebook page after they say they were mistreated at PES. They created the petition earlier this week along with the Fawkes family, calling for a review of the PES system.
“Having an independent review holds people accountable because that’s still what we’re looking for, accountability,” says Hale. “The government isn’t taking accountability and VIHA (the Vancouver Island Health Authority) isn’t taking accountability.”
They now have an ally in Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.
“I continue to hear these stories,” says Olsen.
“Ella and Emma have asked that if they were to start a petition, if I would bring it into the House for them,” says Olsen. “I let them know that I absolutely would table the petition.”
Island Health tells CTV News it is “aware of the petition and recognizes people’s fundamental right to advocate for change and sign petitions.”
The health authority adds that it is “committed to an open and transparent process to achieve improvements to PES.”
CTV News asked the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions for comment on the psychiatric emergency services system but did not receive a response before deadline.
“We need to do an independent review, independent of the government and really evaluate and find out what’s going on in psychiatric emergency services on Vancouver Island, in particular,” says Kyle.
As of Wednesday morning, the petition had more than 1,450 signatures with a goal of 1,500.