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British Columbia. Essondale Hospital
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Riverview Hospital was a Canadian mental health facility in Coquitlam, British Columbia. It operated as the Province’s specialized psychiatric hospital from 1913 until it closed in 2012. The hospital is located on sumiqwuelu, or in Halkomelem language, the Place of the Great Blue Heron, where Kwikwetlem First Nation took shelter for thousands of years. By the beginning of the 20th century, traditional healing knowledge in the area was supplanted by settler colonial medical practice.
Riverview Hospital was operated directly by the Province, originally under the Insane Asylums Act (1873), the Mental Hospitals Act (1940), and the Mental Health Act (1964) until 1988. A re-evaluation of contemporary approaches to mental health care through the 1960s to the mid-1980s brought about change to mental health service development in British Columbia. The Province created the British Columbia Mental Health Society (BCMHS) in 1988 and gave it the task of running Riverview pursuant to provincial health legislation. The BCMHS board began as Provincially-appointed trustees but by 1992, it was replaced by a community-based board of governors. After the establishment of the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) in 2001, Riverview Hospital fell under the jurisdiction of its Mental Health & Addiction Services (now the BC Mental Health & Substance Use Services).
In 1904, the Province purchased 1,000 acres in Coquitlam for the construction of a new mental hospital (as well as Colony Farm) due to overcrowding at the Royal Hospital in Victoria and the Public Hospital for the Insane in New Westminster. Originally called the Hospital for the Mind at Mount Coquitlam, the hospital was named Essondale Hospital in honour of Dr. Henry Esson Young shortly after its opening. Young was the Provincial Secretary and Minister of Education and was responsible for establishing and managing the hospital.
The first building, West Lawn (then, the Male Chronic Wing) opened in 1913 to serve male patients. The patient population grew rapidly and soon led to more overcrowding. In 1922 the Boys’ Industrial School of Coquitlam (BISCO) opened to provide education, industrial training, and juvenile reform to boys sentenced to confinement by law. To accommodate more patients, Centre Lawn (then, the Acute Psychopathic Unit) opened in 1924. In 1930, East Lawn (then, the Female Chronic Unit) opened to ease crowding of female patients at the Public Hospital for the Insane in New Westminster.
After the First World War, more spaces for war veterans were needed in British Columbia. Thus a new Veteran's Unit opened at Essondale Hospital in 1934. In 1936, BISCO was moved; the school underwent renovation and reopened as a geriatric care unit called the Home for the Aged (later, Valleyview). This unit was administered under the Provincial Home for the Aged Act (1935). After the Second World War, veterans were moved to the Riverside unit on Colony Farm grounds. The original Veteran’s Unit expanded and became the Crease Clinic of Psychological Medicine, which opened in 1949 and operated under separate health legislation than Essondale Hospital. The Crease Clinic allowed for voluntary admission of patients who could terminate their hospitalization at will. In 1950, Essondale Hospital changed its name to Provincial Mental Hospital, Essondale. North Lawn (then, the Tuberculosis Unit) opened in 1955 to stem the spread of the tuberculosis common in the hospital's other units. By 1956 there were over 4,700 patients at the Provincial Mental Hospital, Essondale, the Crease Clinic, and the Home for the Aged combined.
In 1959 the charge of mental health services was transferred from the Provincial Secretary to the new Department of Health Services and Hospital Insurance. That year, the Valleyview geriatric care unit opened. Five years later in 1964, the British Columbia Mental Health Act was enacted. The Crease Clinic amalgamated with Essondale Provincial Mental Hospital in 1965 to function as one facility named Riverview Hospital. That same year, the Riverside unit was converted to a maximum security facility and was renamed the Forensic Psychiatric Institute.
From the 1960s to the 1980s Riverview Hospital began to face changes because of deinstitutionalization. Patient populations declined at Riverview Hospital due to a move toward outpatient care and community based centres for mental health services. Although Riverview Hospital was given formal status as a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of British Columbia in 1974, by 1981 patient population had dropped and parts of the hospital were closed and sold off to developers. In 1983, West Lawn closed and farming operations at Colony Farm were discontinued. Next followed twenty years of unit closures: Crease Clinic (1992), East Lawn (2005), North Lawn (2007), and in 2012, the last patients were moved from Centre Lawn. That year Riverview Hospital ceased its operations.
Currently, the Riverview Lands are home to three lodges where long-term intensive psychological rehabilitation is provided for individuals, administered through Fraser Health’s Mental Health network of services.
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