© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Health Minister Doug Currie speaks at a rally Tuesday evening calling for more addiction services. With him is Premier Robert Ghiz.
Less than 24-hours after 100 Islanders held a tearful rally for more addictions services, Health Minister Doug Currie faced questions about why he left $1 million unspent in his addictions and mental health budget last year.
Opposition MLA James Aylward asked Currie today how he would explain this unspent money to family members of addicted Islanders who shared their difficult stories on the steps of Province House last evening.
“He’s not utilizing $773,100 in addictions services, he’s not utilizing $219,300 in community mental health,” Aylward said.
“It’s not this house you have to explain it to, it’s the thousands of people struggling with addictions and mental health that you have to come clean with. Minister, how do you explain leaving $1 million on the table to the families who stood on the front steps of Province House last night begging for more support?”
Currie defended his record on actions taken to address the growing epidemic of addiction, notably involving prescription drugs in P.E.I.
But as for specifics of why this money was not spent, he said the question would be better raised during the time in the legislature when his department’s budget is examined line by line.
“We were clear on Nov. 1, we sent a strong message to Islanders that the challenge and the new face of addictions and the access to services in addictions and mental health is a priority,” Currie said.
He alluded to new investments that will soon be announced on this file, on the recommendations of the province’s chief mental health and addictions officer, Dr. Rhonda Matters.
“We will be announcing more initiatives and more announcements to continue to address the needs of Islanders and improving access in various areas of mental health and addictions, keeping in mind mental health and addictions is a very important area, but we also have other demanding pressure points in our health-care system that also need attention.”
But Aylward continued to press Currie on how he could have left $1 million unspent in his budget last year while talking so much about addictions and mental health being priorities.
“How do you explain leaving $1 million on the table to the mothers and fathers of this Island who lie awake at night wondering if their son or daughter, who is struggling with addictions, will make it home tonight?”