People suffering from mental illness need to be helped, not arrested, says Paula Havixbeck.
The councillor from Charleswood-Tuxedo expanded on her community support platform at a Tuesday morning news conference and took a swipe at opponent Gord Steeves.
Havixbeck outlined a series of supports she says city hall must provide to help individuals suffering from mental illness, including subsidies on transit and offering space in community and leisure centres for workshops and courses for individuals with mental health issues and their families.
"Having police remove them from downtown is not the answer," Havixbeck. "We need to do more and we can."
Havixbeck’s platform won the endorsement of the executive director of the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba, who said the councillor is the first mayoral candidate to recognize the problem faced by a large number of Winnipeggers.
Tara Brousseau Snider said she was alarmed when Steeves said he would direct police and police cadets to remove panhandlers and homeless people from the downtown.
Brousseau Snider said one in four Winnipeggers suffers from some form of mental illness. Forcibly removing individuals from the streets, she said, is not the solution.
"This is an idea that would make sense to our organization," Brousseau Snider said of Havixbeck’s announcement. "What we need is more community support and the ability to get help."
Havixbeck held her news conference in front of the Mood Disorders Fort Street offices, a similar setting to an event last week near Winnipeg Harvest’s facilities, where she endorsed a food distribution initiative to help reduce hunger.
Havixbeck said both statements have been well received and are part of her community support platform.
Brousseau Snider said Mood Disorders is not endorsing Havixbeck or any other candidate but it welcomes and encourages candidates to consider positive measures to help individuals suffering from mental illness.
Havixbeck said offering transit subsidies would make it affordable for people with mental illness to get access to the help they need. Havixbeck said she suggested the total cost of a transit subsidy providing 100,000 bus rides could be $50,000.
Other measures Havixbeck announced Tuesday include further training for police for dealing with people with mental health issues; and support for emergency services personnel – police, fire, EMS – suffering from post traumatic stress disorders.