Island Health and local police departments are re-examining how they deal with detainees with mental health issues, after a visitor was attacked at Royal Jubilee Hospital’s psychiatric emergency services facility.
On Nov. 5, Saanich police detained a 33-year-old man at his home under the Mental Health Act after his mother expressed concern for his wellbeing.
“It was a report that he was acting in a strange or odd behaviour,” said Saanich Sgt. Steve Eassie. “Generally why people are apprehended under the Mental Health Act is because they pose a risk to themselves or others.”
Two officers escorted the man to the Archie Courtnall Centre at RJH for assessment. It was while they were in the waiting room that the man, without provocation, attacked another man sitting beside him.
“He struck that individual several times, resulting in injuries to the uninvolved party’s face and head,” Eassie said.
The officers and security from Island Health quickly intervened and subdued the assailant. The victim, who was waiting to see another patient, received a deep laceration to his lip, and bruising to his eye.
Brodie Bingley now faces a charge of aggravated assault and uttering threats.
“I believe following the attack he may have said something to the effect that he would harm this individual if he saw him again,” Eassie said.
Sarah Plank, spokesperson for Island Health, says her organization is now working with Saanich and Victoria police departments to ensure proper safety measures are in place when someone is brought in under the Mental Health Act.
“Any review that we do, our primary goal is look at whether there was something we could’ve done better and something we could do to prevent a future event like this from happening,” she said.
“We want to work together to make sure we have consistent processes in place that mitigate the risk as much as possible.
“One of the big ones is around the transfer of information between police and staff who are working the psychiatric emergency services, and what that looks like, and whether there’s a formal or consistent way that information might be conveyed.”
Island Health and the two police departments will also establish a liaison committee to align all processes, although Plank said it’s too early to know specific discussion points.
“In general it would open up the dialogue between our staff and police departments … when police are bringing someone in under the Mental Health Act,” she said.
“The psychiatric emergency room can often be a very fast, changing environment, and the staff there are qualified to work with unpredictable behaviour – they do that every day,” Plank said. “The risk of violence is assessed with every patient who comes into psychiatric emergency services.”
“I think any time we can come up with a system that is going to assist us and assist the medical facilities in providing better services for the people we’re trying to assist, we all benefit,” Eassie added.
Detentions under the Mental Health Act are a regular occurrence for officers, he said, as police have become “in essence a de facto mental health response team.”
“There’s becoming a greater and greater demand on our resources to assist the mental health community with assessments and engaging with these individuals on a daily basis,” he said. “It would certainly be more beneficial if we had more access to resources.”
He said mental health related matters can tie up police resources for several hours, as officers who pick someone up under the Mental Health Act are required to stay with that individual while they wait to see a doctor in the emergency room.
Bingley has been held in custody since Nov. 6 and is expected to appear in court Monday (Dec. 9) for a bail hearing.