© Guardian photo
Opposition MLA James Aylward
Opposition health critic James Aylward wants the province’s new chief mental health and addictions officer to appear before a committee of MLAs that examined the problem of youth opiate addiction in P.E.I. last year.
Aylward says he would like Dr. Rhonda Matters to provide an update on the progress of her comprehensive mental health and addictions services review.
“A number of events have happened in our mental health system since Dr. Matters began her review last November,” said Aylward.
“In the past month alone, front line mental health nursing positions have been eliminated; the director of mental health and addictions spoke out against the conditions at Hillsborough Hospital; staff raised concerns at the Montague community mental health and addictions facility; we learned that Corpus Sanchez is conducting its own mental health services review – and all the while Health Minister Doug Currie is nowhere to be found.”
Matters was appointed the new chief mental health and addictions officer last November as part of an action plan launched by the province to deal with a growing number of Islanders dealing with addictions.
Aylward said Tuesday he believes is imperative Matters appear before the Standing Committee on Health and Social Development to address recent concerns about addictions and mental health services and offer an update on what progress has been made thus far with her review.
“If Minister Currie is convinced that another review of mental health services is needed, then families waiting for help deserve to know what progress is being made and how much longer they will have to wait for improved services,” he said.
“My biggest concern is that… Island families will not receive the services they so greatly need and deserve. I certainly hope Dr. Matters can provide some much needed clarity on these issues by appearing before the committee.”
Last year, the Standing Committee on Health and Social Development held meetings across the province to hear from Islanders, doctors, nurses and other health and law enforcement officials on what has been called an epidemic of addiction to prescription drugs in P.E.I.
In its report to the legislature, delivered in late November, the committee identified an urgent need to address gaps in access to treatment services as part of six recommendations to government.
It also said stigmas associated with addictions must be changed and that it must be made easier to access treatment and support.