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Const. Nicole Chan sent home from hospital before her death despite past suicide attempts, B.C. inquest hears

WARNING: This story contains harrowing details.

The night before Vancouver Const. Nicole Chan died by suicide, a police psychologist passed urgent information about her history of suicide attempts to staff at the hospital because she was being held involuntarily, a public investigation was known.

Randy Mackoff testified Tuesday at the coroner’s inquest, telling the jury he received a call on January 26, 2019, announcing that Chan had been taken to the Hospital Vancouver General Hospital because she was considered a danger to herself.

Mackoff, who works almost exclusively with the Vancouver Police Department (VPD), said he told officers at the scene that they needed to talk to Chan’s care team about mental health issues during the procedure. her past.

“I told Sgt. [Novi] Jette and also Supt. [Shelley] Horne that the contact with the psychiatrist at the hospital that Const. Chan has had a long history of suicidal ideation, suicide attempts,” Mackoff said.

“They have to know this…before making a decision whether to release her or not.”

However, Chan was discharged that night. She died by suicide the next morning at the age of 30.

Before Chan died, she reported inappropriate sexual relationships with two superior officers, former VPD sergeants David Van Patten and Greg McCullough. She also alleges that Van Patten sexually assaulted and blackmailed her.

In her testimony on Tuesday, Mackoff declined to comment on the decision to discharge Chan but said it created “additional risks” based on her history.

A woman wearing a police uniform smiles as she stands next to the flag of the Vancouver Police Department.
Constant. Nicole Chan’s 2019 death is the subject of an ongoing coroner’s investigation. (e.g. sent)

He added that in his experience from thousands of similar situations in which someone is detained under the Mental Health Act, hospital staff are often not willing to talk about what he says. so-called “collateral resources” who can provide context about a patient’s past behavior.

“My experience as a psychologist is that there is no contact and no interest in engaging in conversation,” says Mackoff.

“It’s not just about the diagnosis. It’s about not speaking literally. … I’ve had psychiatrists say, no, no, don’t talk to me.”

His concerns echo the recently raised by Aaron Sanio’s family, who died by suicide in 2021 after being discharged from care at Lions Gate Hospital. The boy’s father said he called the hospital eight times trying to provide information about his son’s medical history but was never able to speak to the care team.

‘Long list’ of concerns from psychological assessment

Mackoff also spoke about reviewing Chan’s responses to the psychological assessment conducted during her initial application to become a VPD officer. He said he flagged 14 concerns about her responses, including the revelation of a suicide attempt when she was a teenager.

“It’s a long list,” he testified, adding that for the average hire, he would only tick five or six interests.

Mackoff testified that he would recommend a psychological interview with Chan to determine her current state of mind, as well as interviews with family and friends. He told the jury that if his interest was verified, he would recommend deferring or denying her application with the VPD.

Earlier in the day, a recruitment officer for the VPD said she had no record of whether those additional interviews took place.

A man wearing a uniform with the words Vancouver Police on the back and a utility belt on the side is listening to a device near his ear as he walks on a brightly lit sidewalk at night.
At least two Vancouver police officers have been accused of having inappropriate sex with Const. Nicole Chan before her death in 2019. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

At the time of her death, Mackoff was no longer treating Chan, and he said he was “very bothered” that she had never disclosed her complaints to her alleged misconduct. senior officers.

In the last year of her life, Chan’s psychologist Dr Noah Susswein, who also testified on Tuesday.

Susswein recalls his last date with Chan on December 21, 2018, when she appeared “full of energy and forward-looking” and was pleased that McCullough had been suspended due to complaints. hers.

But that’s not all good news.

“She was very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very good to the word that she used was ‘outraged’, which she personally reported, Dave [Van Patten]kept his job,” Susswein said.

‘I was sick and taken advantage of’

Chan’s feelings about Van Patten are further clarified in a victim impact statement she prepared for the New Westminster Police Department, January 7, 2019, announced by the coroner’s office on Tuesday.

The New Westminster division investigated Chan’s allegations that Van Patten sexually assaulted and blackmailed her, but Crown prosecutors ultimately decided not to approve the charges, the investigation has heard. .

Chan’s unsigned statement alleges that Van Patten, who works in human resources, used information about her personal hardships to “exploit and manipulate” her.

“I was ill and taken advantage of by a senior officer handling my files. There was a huge power imbalance and I was severely depressed,” the statement read.

“Through this process, I hope it’s clear that Dave is not someone who should have the privilege of continuing to be a police officer.”

Chan also expressed despair for her future if she could not continue as a police officer.

“I didn’t have a pre-VPD career, nor was I trained to do anything else. Most importantly, my mental health prevented me from looking ahead or other work options.” she wrote.

Van Patten was eventually fired from the VPD, and McCullough resigned.

The coroner’s investigation is expected to resume Wednesday morning.

If you or someone you know is struggling, here’s where to get help:

This guide from Center for Addiction and Mental Health Outline how to talk about suicide with the person you’re worried about.

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