Province urged to act on Prince Edward Island mental health crisis

Jim Day
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Opposition says it’s time to address, not study, growing problem

Hillsborough Hospital

The province is being urged to take immediate action to improve a mental health-care system seen to be in crisis rather than simply carry on studying the problem.

PC Opposition health critic James Aylward is again calling on Health Minister Doug Currie to address the “critical shortage’’ of mental health and addictions services in Prince Edward Island.

Aylward’s renewed call came in a statement Wednesday coming on the heels of the director of mental health and addictions calling Hillsborough Hospital antiquated and struggling with an ongoing capacity problem.

Margaret Kennedy also told The Guardian in an interview Tuesday that a gap exists in residential services and other treatment services in the province for people with mental health issues, developmental issues, homeless issues and behavioural issues.

Many people residing at Hillsborough Hospital, she notes, do not have psychiatric conditions but cannot be discharged because they do not have a place to go.

“This crisis did not develop overnight,’’ said Aylward. “This government did a review of mental health services when they came to power, they did another review last year, and now are talking about reviewing services once again.’’

The province appointed a specialist earlier this year to come up with a long-term strategy to improve mental health and addictions services.

Aylward says the Liberal government has commissioned study after study but has failed to even address the most obvious problems.

“After years of defending the system, the director of mental health admits there are major shortfalls,’’ says Aylward.

“Parents who lost their children due to mental health and addictions are begging for help. What more will it take? How many lives have to be lost before Minister Currie and the Ghiz government take the action they know is necessary?’’

Health Minister Doug Currie was unavailable for comment.

NDP Leader Mike Redmond also called on the government Wednesday to provide needed resources to bring the province’s mental health services into line with the national standard as recommended by the Canadian Mental Health Commission.

Kennedy told The Guardian the province only allocates four to five per cent of its health budget towards mental health and addictions while the national commission recommends seven to nine per cent of total health-care expenditure be spent on mental health care alone.

“There is a critical lack of support for Islanders with mental health issues,’’ says Redmond.

“Parents tell me this, addictions workers call out, homeless people don’t know where to turn but jail. And now we find that the Hillsborough Hospital is over capacity, outdated and falling apart.’’

Redmond says there is a glaring lack of housing options in the community for people with mental health issues. People end up in Hillsborough Hospital, he adds, because there are no other options.

“The province has a responsibility to find ways to support people outside of this institution,’’ he says.

“We need a population health approach to tackle the mental health needs of Islanders, we need adequate funding of needed services as a top priority and we need this now.’’

Organizations: Hillsborough Hospital, The Guardian

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Prince Edward Island.Aylward

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Recent comments

  • don
    January 09, 2014 - 20:07

    can we start with wes and ghiz? they need help to wake up and know that they are employees of the tax payers? and maybe a cat scan to see if they have a heart? after that if they can help them islanders will be better as this want to be government has put so much STRESS on islanders never before have we had so many islanders with mental health trouble. this all started shortly after 1997.

  • Kevin MacDougall
    January 09, 2014 - 13:20

    I agree there has been too many studies which are also very costly and time consuming. Studies and outcomes are very important but should be part of an overall service delivery approach. We are already aware of what is needed for services to be provided. I applaud the Director Margaret MacKinnon for informing the public the current state of services in PEI and wouldn't want to see the same mistakes Provinces like Nova Scotia has made and lives lost because of prolonged decision making by government services.

  • don
    January 09, 2014 - 10:07

    sorry but wes has no money for health. but has 1.5 mill for barns but not hard to tell whats more important but I guess wes needs to keep alc happy.