AG report finds wait times for mental health services continue to plague P.E.I

Teresa Wright
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Auditor General Jane MacAdam

The $85,000 mental health and addictions review did not go far enough, and more money is needed for mental health services for seniors, children and youth, according to senior provincial health officials.

These comments from management at the Department of Health and Health P.E.I. are included in the 2014 Auditor General Report — their responses to concerns raised in a previous special audit.

A 2012 investigation by former Auditor General Colin Younker found a number of serious problems with community mental health services in P.E.I., including excessive wait times and no existing long-term plan.

In response, the department commissioned a review of all mental health and addictions services, which resulted in an $85,000 report completed by the consulting firm MRSB. Two years have passed and long wait times for counselling services, psychological assessments and other mental health services continue to plague P.E.I.’s health system.

“The mental health and addictions review did not go as far as expected,” senior health management wrote in the 2014 Auditor General report, released last week in the legislature.

“It will now be necessary to carry out additional tasks in the next phase of work.”

Health Minister Doug Currie acknowledged Monday this is a strong statement, but one that shows health officials take the issue of increasing need for mental health and addictions services seriously and have been working hard to find new ways to alleviate the many pressures on the system.

“We’ve identified that access is an issue,” Currie said. “We’re looking at how can we continue to find ways, whether it be new resources or more efficiencies in our system, to improve access.”

In the latest auditor general report, senior management in the health department and Health P.E.I. detail actions taken so far to address concerns raised by the AG 2012, including steps still necessary to improve services.

An internal report has been completed on wait times that identifies pressure points where they are and what services are most impacted.

“The mental health and addictions review did not go as far as expected.” Senior health management wrote in the 2014 Auditor General report.

Work is also underway to create electronic data to better monitor wait times. Also, a proper intake policy has been developed to identify priority referrals for those most in need of urgent care.

But the wait times report still needs to be refined, health management says in the AG report.

That means more bureaucratic work, including a shared ‘Mental Health and Addictions operation improvement plan’ to be developed in the last quarter of 2013-14.

But health officials clearly state even these measures will not fix all the problems.

“It is expected that the access targets cannot be met for all services and in all sites,” health management state in the 2014 AG report. “In order to meet these targets, changes to service availability or expansion into tiers of care may be impacted.”

Also, despite the fact Health P.E.I. now has a minimum time frame established for those in most need of urgent care, this could create new problems.

“This will likely create an increasing gap in access for those in less urgent need,” health officials stated.

Health P.E.I. has made requests this year for investment in the seniors’ mental health resource team as well for child and youth mental health services “required to meet increasing demands.”

Currie would not specify how much money was requested, pointing instead to the $1.2 million in new initiatives announced last November to help deal with the increasing need for mental health and addictions services.

He says he is also waiting for a report from Chief Mental Health and Addictions Officer Dr. Rhonda Matters, who is conducting an extensive review of current services and will identify where she believes services and investments could be made.

“These are all issues that we recognize, both from a department standpoint and Health P.E.I., that these are areas where we need to improve access,” Currie said.

Organizations: Department of Health and Health P.E.I., MRSB

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Recent comments

  • Walter
    April 10, 2014 - 12:13

    Amazing ride Clara Hughes! She biked 124 km from Woodstock to Saint John and met with her fans and community leaders

  • Disgusted
    April 08, 2014 - 20:30

    I agree gov members will all be happy to show up for a photo op with Clara, and could care less about the medical situation when it comes to mental health and addictions....votes are all that count! Politics is a dirty business

  • Wayne
    April 08, 2014 - 15:07

    Not only have two reports been done so far. The Chief Mental Health and Addictions Officer is doing yet another report and has yet to talk to those of us who are in the system trying to seek services. Maybe try having some frank discussion with frontline workers. What has this Chief Mental Health and Addictions Officer done so far - absolutely nothing !

  • AnotherReport
    April 08, 2014 - 09:52

    The reality is pretty clear that Doug Currie is biding time until the next election. He has no intention of making any real changes and could not care less about people with mental illnesses or addictions or the families that have to live with these diseases. He cares about votes. He would rather waste $85000 on a study than spend $25 helping anyone. Please, please, please do not vote for this man ever again... He has no medical background and shouldn't even be in this job. Just look at how much his endless studies have cost the tax payers of PEI and look how very little improvement there has been.

  • don
    April 08, 2014 - 09:45

    currie spent $85,000 mental health and addictions review. money in the can. is that all this useless excuse for a government and adults is to spend money on reviews? talk o the best information you can get is the "NURSES" they spend more time with the patient then any mla, doctor etc does they are the experts. currie you are no doctor all you are is a name anyone even a child can do your job. Jane MacAdam is you can do anything next time force this want o be adults from spending the money on friends to do a review and use to help islanders.

  • AnonymousIslander
    April 08, 2014 - 09:17

    Review didn't go as far as expected because it was NOT PERMITTED to go far enough. Not too hard to figure out, this is PEI after all

  • Candace Arsenault
    April 08, 2014 - 08:05

    FYI…Doug Currie…..My name is Candace Arsenault, I have a mental illness….in fact I have a few serious diagnosis's that fall under the mental illness umbrella. I am willing to be most candid and anytime you want to know how you could best improve the Quality of Life care for the people of Prince Edward Island, why don't you ask one that suffers and ADMITS they have it, instead of the ones that are in denial about how it affects them personally and only think they know how to fix it. That includes the doctors…..all of them!!! What is happening around us…is not getting better…..perhaps it is time to ask the patients. I believe you know where to contact me!

  • Quiet Observer
    April 08, 2014 - 06:53

    And the users of these services and their families will be asked for their input when?

  • John W. A. Curtis
    April 08, 2014 - 05:49

    Government believes in providing bureaucracy not mental health services. People can see the hypocrisywhen many of these politicians show up to see Clara Hughes