Is minister developing policy or ready to accept public input?
© Guardian photo
Mount Herbert addictions treatment centre
It was a case of déjà vu all over again when P.E.I. Health Minister Doug Currie said this week that the long-awaited strategy on mental health and addiction services will be released soon. The minister said the same thing in April, again in June, and in August and now in mid-September.
This time Mr. Currie says the strategy, as well as an action plan to address gaps in treatment services, will both be made public within the next few weeks.
He has resisted numerous calls for the report’s release, citing the need for government to formulate a detailed response. Why didn’t Mr. Currie simply release the report back in April and let stakeholders and the public view it, make suggestions, provide criticisms or applaud it. The department could then have used that public input to craft a more complete response.
It’s past that stage now. As the opposition has feared, the minister will likely bring in policy while the chance for public input may well be curtailed. Maybe he wanted to delay bad news for stakeholders because government is unable to address the recommendations in the report because of what Mr. Currie refers to as “these fiscally challenging times.”
The province spent more than $85,000 for independent consultant MRSB to conduct the review after an auditor general’s investigation in 2012 found a number of serious problems, including excessive wait times and no existing long-term plan for community mental health. Since the taxpayers paid for the report, the taxpayers have a right to see it.
The report could also have helped a provincial standing committee as it conducts Islandwide hearings now underway, dealing with issues such as addictions and mental health.
Mr. Currie is now saying government has delayed the release until an action plan is ready. If that is the case, why did the minister keep promising to release the report if he never had any intention of seeking public input before government’s response? He should have stated in April that government was using the report to formulate policy which would be released in the fall when the legislature reconvenes in November.
These constant promises and constant delays have only raised suspicions that government does not agree with the report or is not in a fiscal position to deal with the recommendations.
This government has made a habit of forging ahead on health-care issues without adequate consultation. Let’s hope this addictions report doesn’t continue that trend.