Ghiz commits to addictions facility, but only if recommend by chief addictions officer

Teresa Wright
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Premier Robert Ghiz listens to a speaker during a rally at Province House Tuesday. Protesters called for more treatment services for addicted Islanders.

Premier Robert Ghiz has committed to immediately amending this year’s budget to build a new addictions facility – but only if the province’s chief mental health and addictions officer recommends it.

Addictions was once again a topic of heated debate in the P.E.I. legislature Tuesday night after a protest was held earlier in the evening calling for more services and treatment for addicted Islanders.

Opposition Tory MLAs used their time allotment Tuesday evening to table a motion calling on government to immediately commit to building a new youth addictions facility – one that would be similar to the Portage youth facility in New Brunswick.

But, as was done when a similar motion was tabled last year in the legislature, government amended the motion to say it would only move forward on an addictions facility if recommended to do so by Dr. Rhonda Matters.

Matters is the province’s chief mental health and addictions officer and is currently undergoing a major review of all services and programs available to Islanders struggling with mental health and addictions in P.E.I.

Ghiz said he is trying to take the politics out of the addictions issue and trying to base decisions on evidence-based research.

“We would be undermining the process if we said, ‘We’re not going to listen and we’re just going to build something,’” Ghiz said.

“We’re not saying that it’s the right thing to do, I’m not saying it’s the wrong thing to do, I’m saying if it is the right thing to do, then let’s do it… but if you’re going to spend a certain amount of money, make sure that you’re spending it on the right thing.”

He then went a step further and committed to amending the budget this year to move forward immediately if Matters does recommend a new facility.

“If the chief mental health and addictions officer comes back and says we need a full-time facility, the leader of the Opposition can stand up and second it, an amendment on the budget, that we add $3-5 million right off the bat into that budget,” he said.

“That’s our commitment to it.”

Opposition Leader Steven Myers tried to fight the amendment to his motion, but the speaker dismissed his argument.

He then accused Health Minister Doug Currie of stalling.

“They kick it another four months down road, so we’ll get a report back, and I’m sure it’ll say the same thing that every other report has already said, but you know what Madame Speaker? There’ll be another report after that and they’ll kick it another four months down the road, and there’ll be another report,” Myers said.

“We were looking for immediate action.”

But backbench government MLA Richard Brown, who has also been vocal in pushing for more addiction services, says he looks on Ghiz’s commitment for a treatment facility as major step forward.

“The premier listened today and the premier has made a substantial commitment tonight,” he said, adding he strongly believes a youth addictions facility is needed.

“It’s going to be our job over the next few months to make sure that we convince (Matters) that a facility is needed,” Brown said.

“I look forward to her report, but I also look forward to arguing with her if she doesn’t recommend a facility. She had better have real, good evidence that we don’t need one in Prince Edward Island.”


Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • cadenjak
    April 16, 2014 - 14:48

    It's very painful for families to lose a loved one due to suicide or an addiction problem and we are need to be concerned for these families as well as those who experience mental health and addictions problems.. Even if money was available for a long term addictions treatment facility, there is no guarantee that recovery happens. Research has shown that lifestyle factors and a range of programs working together have better results than lengthy confinement. These factors include : people, including drug users and addicts, have to take responsibility for their own behavior. Secondly, those entering or struggling to stay drug (or alcohol) free need to live in a protective environment, long term, with support from non-using family and other helpers. At the same time, increased efforts and resources will help police officers and the community at large to depower those who are selling or promoting drug use. It's a criminal activity; we need more zero tolerance thinking. Some parents actually give messages like " It's Ok to use as long as you're aren't driving, using hard drugs, etc". Also youth need hope like hope of a job, positive feedback, and effective life and mental health counselling, so that life without chemicals looks more attractive than the quick fix but destructive life threatening effects of living in a drug using culture. Looking at the facts, it's unlikely a mental health/addictions review will ask for an elaborate facility but it will likely recommend support for programs that have shown to have good outcomes. It's time to stop blaming systems and politicians and work together with an honest attempt to find solutions for a major health and social problem.

  • dual purpose
    April 16, 2014 - 13:34

    Mental health can set the stage for addictions in the first place as it is a firm if medication attempt to self manage other symptoms that are not always known to the person expeiancing mental health crisis .This can be any one ! There has to be alot of work in mental health as prority and reduce stigma and judgement including workplaces and management and society in general . I think mental health should be started in school program awareness . It safe to say that many individuals are not even aware of a mental health issue until later in life whether it be genetic .enviroment predisposion .coping skills and self regulation ,mindfulness .stress and angermanagement could be incorperated in education system the same as a home economics program . This woukd inturn prevent risk to addiction later in life possibly if there was a program in school .

    • you never know
      April 16, 2014 - 14:14

      You never know with all the stress Ghiz must endure with pressures of running the province .He shoukd not pass the buck from all the backlash the cabinet gets they may need mental health treatment themself some day .No human is excluded to be slamdunked to get mental illness .

  • Mushroommanlady
    April 16, 2014 - 11:49

    Fitz, your comment made my eyes bleed. Its people like you who are destroying any credibility in Medicinal Cannabis, and you should feel bad. I'm hoping that if this facility gets built that it will be for all mental health, not just addictions. Our aging parents and grandparents are suffering more and more from things like depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Sure we will stand up for our children and our youth, but this facility should and can be for everyone. Not just addictions, not just youth. Mental health.

  • Brian
    April 16, 2014 - 10:48

    I coudnot agree with you more"I was there" The people that r looking after right now are scared to lose their good paying jobs if they speak for the new facility. They do need a third party to look at the reports and actually see that something needs to be done .Put some of our HARD earned tax dollars to good use for a change. Let's look after our addicted people and perhaps they just might contribute once they get the help they need

  • Bill B
    April 16, 2014 - 10:07

    So I suppose there will be a lengthy study into mental health and addictions to determine whether we need more help for these people that are jumping from bridges and overdosing because of the power of addictions. I think it's a pretty simple answer, there needs to be more done to stop this epidemic, how much more proof does the government need when we even have doctors losing licenses, and high ranking police officers being charged due to addictions. There should a lot more resources going into mental health and addictions than going into the things that are causing a lot of these issues, like gambling, liquor stores, medications.....etc.

    • CommonSense
      April 16, 2014 - 13:11

      I agree completely... they don't need more proof..all these studies are just delay tactics so either they can not anything or delay it until just before an election because you know us Islanders are really a pretty dumb lot who will forget all the bad stuff they have done. They could take the $150000 set aside for bingo revitalization... instead of flushing it down the toilet which would be just as effective as revitalizing bingo. Or perhaps take the $2,000,000 left over in the social services budget because obviously us wealthy islanders don't need it.

  • Fitz
    April 16, 2014 - 08:37

    Use the taxes collected from the new weed plant in ch,town they are building to pay for it! Addicts paying for the addicts

    • agree
      April 16, 2014 - 11:33

      There can be found funding like thst to support addictions treatment such as taxes from the medicinal weed grow if as well fines to charges of drug addiction crimes . As well revovering addicts need safe places to live .It hard to revover when individuals are treatment and recovery then have to return to rooming houses and housing that active users reside .Housing low rentals with supportive care and goal plans to return to community work .educational paths . When life is improved so is the likely hood of success to best addictive habits and restucturing lives . Example the old notre dame convent would have made such a place or the convent on Mount Edward Road . Considerations and careful intake assessments of individuals that want extensive treatment and committed to staying clean for the long term on a combined acute care step program as well as follow up after care when return to community independent living .for on going support .

  • Quiet Observer
    April 16, 2014 - 07:33

    The problem with having the person responsible for the system do a study on it is that she has something at stake in the process. Any negative reflection on the addictions program here is a negative reflection on her. So what do you think she is going to do? We needed a neutral 3rd party to do this, not someone with a stake in defending the current system.

  • Fed up
    April 16, 2014 - 06:39

    That's Ghiz for you....Pass the Buck...

  • I-was-there
    April 16, 2014 - 06:10

    Richard Brown needs to get his hearing checked. Ghiz committed to NOTHING. What are the chances that this addictions officer is going to come back with something that Ghiz doesn't want to hear? There was a 2 million dollar surplus in the social service budget (because all islanders are doing wonderfully.... except those that are living on the street, starving, etc.) that would have gone a long way to providing services. Ghiz has an empire. He has given many of his friends who helped on his campaign positions in the PEI government without competition and then provided them with cars and takes them along with him on his trips to China etc. There is lots of money for that. It was the same old song and dance from both Ghiz and Currie... 5 minutes of repeating what was said before... blah, blah, blah. Both of them should be extremely ashamed as to how they are treating people with this disease. Stand up people... addiction is a disease. Why are we allowing people with this disease to be treated differently from other diseases? Smokers get cancer. We treat that cancer. No one would accept less than that.... why are we allowing kids and their families to suffer with this? Islanders are better that that... or at least they used to be.